Alice Hill-Woods deploys a multidisciplinary approach to all that she does. She grew up between Nottingham and various parts of South Africa, then moved to York, and then settled (for now) in Glasgow. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2020, with a degree in English Literature, and currently studies medical humanities at the University of York, where she's supported by a scholarship. Her poetry appears in a number of magazines and journals, and she has collaborated on several projects with other writers, musicians and artists. She's also led a variety of workshops for the community, loving the energy of experimental exercises in a shared space. Her lyricism always tells a narrative, with vocals that are both natural and haunting. It is through the authenticity of her voice that she draws listeners in and creates a compelling landscape for them to enter. As part of her work with anam creative, Alice has recently collaborated with Michiel Turner on a new piece of music entitled ‘Swim’, which will be released in the coming weeks.
Founder of anam creative, Michiel, talks to Alice about her multidisciplinary approach, love of writing and various collaborations.
'the hope', poem.
First published in Streetcake Magazine, issue 66 (2020)
Cover of HOTHOUSE, unpublished hybrid pamphlet (2020)
MT: Can you describe your creative process?
AHW: In terms of writing, a lot of it is finding a word that I like the shape of, and scribbling it down somewhere, so, like, recent words include colonnade, meristem, clemency and ghostwrote. I guess I also sometimes take things from my dreams, which is probably because I fall asleep on the hinge of a good line or an interesting scene. So it’s a slow process, like beachcombing.
Music involves a very different kind of process. I’m kind of impatient with music – I want things to happen now, at 11pm, when my voice is tired from talking all day. I’ve been writing songs since I was able to play guitar – and a lot of the stuff I made came from the intense emotional textures of girlhood, betrayal, belonging, etc. I think life is more mellow for me now (touch wood), so… yeah, I use my emotions to influence my writing, but not drive the whole thing off the edge. I also live with an incredible musician – I think that helps a lot.
MT: You are a passionate writer, why are poetry and writing so important to you?
AHW: Oh man. They’ve saved my life! I suppose I’ve always been a reader, so the writing thing followed on from that – I always wanted to extend the fantasy (to borrow a line from Ann Quin), reimagine my sense of self in the world. It was always a very solitary thing to begin with, but now it’s more about reaching out and absorbing other writing into my practice. I still do it because it makes me feel something, or because I want to say something. A recent project involved trying to trace what I can remember from my teens in South Africa. A lot of it became opaque cos I wanted to forget it, but writing – in remembering, building an archive, colouring in the gaps – enabled me to release it from my body properly. So writing is alchemical in that it creates stuff you want to hang on to, but it also somehow gets rid of stuff, transmutes it into something you can finally stomach.
Stills from 'window', a collaborative film by Alice and Michiel, incorporating poem and soundscape (2020)
MT: What kind of collaborative projects have you been involved with previously?
AHW: I received a grant in 2018 to set up a collaborative workshop in Glasgow, where everyone explored the exchanges between writing and art, and I’ve worked on projects with [Michiel Turner], one of which we showcased at a pecha kucha evening hosted by A+E Collective – it was a kind of poem-film-soundscape thing about windows. I’m also part of the team at SPAM zine & Press – we actually just did a collaborative workshop with Syllabus, an incredible space where we could talk to artists and explore areas of overlap in our practices. And I’ve been working on a collaboration with Intrnit Designs, set up by Basil Panagop, to produce something that should be coming out very soon. Oh – and I’m featuring on Island People’s second album, which will be released soon!!
MT: How do you feel your other creative disciplines (poetry, photography, filmmaking, art) impact your music?
AHW: I think 35mm film is just pure joy… the way you actually don’t have thaaat much control over it, especially doing multiple exposures or using expired film. They all kind of interweave. It’s about taking or shaping or making a moment, and then pushing it to become significant.
MT: How has your involvement with anam creative supported you as an artist?
AHW: My musical ability is fairly limited, and I’ve always wanted to be in a band, so it’s amazing to have access to this coterie of musicians who can supply bass, chord progressions, backing vocals, harmonies, piano and more… but it’s also a community. We meet up over Zoom and discuss ideas, and laugh – we’re always moving forward together, it seems. Everyone is so different, which adds to the excitement. Plus it’s a long-term(ish) thing, so there’s room to develop those connections and allow things to evolve organically.
MT: What does collaboration mean to you?
AHW: It’s the jenga of life that you actually don’t want to pull out of.