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Finding home in Belfast: Izumi Kimura reflects on her NAVIGATOR residency at The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

  • Process & creation

I have always been a visitor, even when I was home. Finding places - cracks or corners I can call home, somewhere or everywhere while travelling in different places...

It gives me a familiar feeling when I visit a new place. I have always been a visitor, even when I was home. Finding places - cracks or corners I can call home, somewhere or everywhere while travelling in different places has been a recurring theme all my life.

My residency at The Crescent in Belfast was unlike any other musical project I have done in the past, and it gave me the opportunity to find another home I didn't know I had.

I was warmly welcomed upon my arrival at The Crescent, and the first meeting with the team in the centre — Sophie Hayles, Gale Jones, Gareth Doran, and Sheelagh Johnston — was followed by a friendly and heart-warming lunch in the cafe.

I settled into my room, which was large and included a small kitchen at the back. I decided to spend this residency solely exploring and finding the beginnings of a fresh project for future development. I didn't have a piano I could use in the building, which was a new experience, to have the time and space to dedicate to my work, but without the instrument. It forced me to think outside my normal way of creating new music. I wanted to explore the relationship between music and poetry, so this was a good limitation I had to deal with, and a positive one in the end. I invited some of the Belfast poets in my room for a conversation and a cup of tea, and recorded some of the conversations and their poems to work with. The room was a neutral and quiet space for us to exchange our stories and words, allowing us to find genuine communication at the first meetings. It was a touching experience of finding home.

Coincidentally, the whole week I was there, there were many conferences and events to commemorate the late Ciaran Carson in the Crescent and Queen's University every day.

And this was the biggest gift to me, as I met some of the most wonderful and interesting people in the poetry world, got a glimpse into the amazing world of Ciaran Carson, and witnessed the intimate relations between Irish traditional music, poetry, and art in his world. When I realised the breadth of the experience I was thrown into, I was happy to silently observe and absorb all of what was going on around me.

My wish to explore and be inspired by poetry - music connections was granted in such a wonderful and unexpected way in The Crescent. I'm grateful that this residency was given to me for the process and development of art and not focused on the short-term outcome. It changed my approach greatly to this subject and allowed me to spend time meeting people and getting to know the place.

I also visited and played with some of the most interesting musicians at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC). I felt the vibrations from the creative people in Belfast were unlike anywhere else I had been. What they had in common were a raw energy, a bold positivity, and ideas that effortlessly crossed borders. It was fresh, and it is my intention to nurture the connections made in this residency, as this is the way we can find home in each other and in ourselves.

I look forward to going back to The Crescent in 2024, likely when the Belfast Book Festival takes place, to continue my poetry-inspired work in collaboration. The possibilities are endless, and I am very excited about this new territory I have started to explore.

A little snippet below of wonderful poet Alan Gillis reading his poem The Response, recorded in my room during our conversation. I accompanied his voice with my keyboard, which is a brief and light-hearted example (with the hope to heal a hidden heavy message in the poem, just as the poem itself does under its sweetness and lightness) of one of the ideas I will continue to explore.

Izumi Kimura & Gerry Hemingway play The Cooler at The Complex, Sunday Oct 22, 2023.

Doors 7pm, music 7:30pm.

Tickets €12/15 here.

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