Hidden Door: Maranta and Post Coal Prom Queen on collaboration

We chat to Maranta and Post Coal Prom Queen to find out more about their forthcoming collaborative performances on the opening and closing nights of Hidden Door

Feature by Tallah Brash | 30 May 2022
  • Maranta, VOMITON & Chell Young @ Hidden Door

The idea of musical collaborations is not a new one – as Russian Doll’s Nadia would say: “Collaborations. What a concept.” But some of the best music has come from artists working with other artists: Run the Jewels and Zach de la Rocha, Rihanna and Jay-Z, Vince Staples and SOPHIE, Elton John and Kiki Dee. The list is endless and the possibilities infinite.

Edinburgh’s Hidden Door is no stranger to a collaboration, and this year’s festival is no different, with six official collaborative projects taking place across the ten day-long festival, where contemporary musicians collide with the classically trained, visual artists, choreographers, actors, set designers and more to bring a unique slice of excitement to an already stacked programme.

The opening night will see Gloria Black and Callum Govan, aka alt-pop duo Maranta, come together with visual artist Chell Young, costume design collective VOMITON and choreographer Hannah Draper for Maranta In Microsteria, the seed of which was sown during one of the pandemic's early lockdowns. "Chell was contacted by Hidden Door to do a lockdown show, and she asked for Maranta to be the music,” Black tells us. “She asked us to perform, and then when that went really well we got asked to do Hidden Door last year. David [Martin, Creative Director of Hidden Door] hinted at the idea that we bring in another collaborative element, and I discovered VOMITON on Instagram over lockdown and thought about asking them to do a music video with us. So when David suggested that, we were like, yes, VOMITON, let's ask them."

"It seemed like a good transition in progression from the live stream show,” Govan adds, “because obviously the pieces that VOMITON make are very physical and textural, so it tied together really well at the last Hidden Door show, the sort of visuals that were on the screen behind us, bringing us and the visuals altogether."

Where last year’s performance was an audiovisual feast, this year, in the surrounds of the 360 degree Debating Chamber of Edinburgh's Old Royal High School, it’s going to be even more impressive; the show will be performed in the round with Young helping to build a live set, and they’ve brought in choreographer Hannah Draper to help bring the many characters of VOMITON to life through movement.

"This sort of collaboration is exciting," Govan says. "The music is only one part of it, but I've felt a lot more connected to the other processes that need to happen to create this show. It's helped me think about ideas in a different way, not just through the prism of music.” 

As well as the evening performance, Maranta and co have also been given the green light to take over other parts of the venue throughout the day where you can expect specially curated sound pieces, projections and more. And that same rule applies to Lily Higham and Gordon Johnstone, aka Post Coal Prom Queen, who, on the day of their performance, will be covering the walls of the venue in competing propaganda, projections of public service announcements, satirical adverts and various news stories. All of this will be in anticipation of Music For First Contact, their choose-your-own-ending space opera – yes, you read that right – which will close out this year’s Hidden Door festival.

Also taking place in the venue’s Debating Chamber, PCPQ's collaborators include Stephanie Lamprea (soprano), Baichuan Hui (piano), Laura J Wilkie (violin), Calum Cummins (sax), Johnny Cypher (rapper), Jai Sharma (‘The Navigator’), Ashley Crawford (‘Propagandist 1’), Fraser McLoughlin (‘Propagandist 2’), Jen McGregor (director), Phil McBride (studio engineer) and John Farrell (photography and videography), who will help bring this one-of-a-kind performance to life.

As with all PCPQ music, the pair's shared love of science fiction lies at the heart of Music For First Contact. Drawing inspiration from Cixin Liu’s The Remembrance of Earth’s Past series and his ‘dark forest theory’, their space opera will be told through the lens of Scottish identity. "You don't often see Scotland in a very futuristic sort of story or environment," Johnstone says, "or if you do, it's quite parochial. We're trying to imagine what Scotland's identity would actually feel like in 1000 years, maybe when Scotland doesn't exist anymore.”

With one ending simply not being enough for the pair to focus their creativity on, as part of the interactivity of the performance the audience will get to cast a vote via QR codes as to how the space opera will end. "The thing that everybody's voting on is, we've received a message from an intelligence other than our own: Do we speak back to it or do we stay quiet and pretend we're not here?" Johnstone goes on to later add: "I don't think anyone's tried anything quite like this," before admitting: "We wouldn't want to be doing this anywhere other than Hidden Door.”

"[Hidden Door] are great for just giving you space to be ambitious and do silly things," Higham says. "They don't really rein us in at all, which is good and bad." While both nights promise to offer something completely unique to the Hidden Door crowd, we're sure it will all be very good indeed, depending on your choice of ending, of course.

Hidden Door runs at the Old Royal High School, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 9-18 Jun
Maranta in Microsteria takes place on 9 Jun
Music For First Contact takes place on 18 Jun