Virginia Astley Interview on BBC 6 Music

Virginia Astley Interview on BBC 6 Music

There is magic to be found in the text and photographs here, and also in this beautiful rendering of what the river actually is.’ – Pete Townshend, The Who

Songwriter and poet Virginia Astley’s debut poetry collection The English River: a journey down the Thames in poems & photographs, recording her walk along the river from its source up to the Thames Barrier, was published by Bloodaxe Books on 21 June 2018.  The book is introduced by Pete Townshend of The Who.

Virginia Astley grew up by the river’s upper reaches, knew the lock-keepers and was familiar with all aspects of the Thames and its hinterland.  These poems tell the story of her return to the Thames, of three years spent tracing its course and of the lives of those connected with the river, as well as her summer spent as a lock-keeper’s assistant based on the upper reach. 

Virginia Astley has been a much-admired singer and songwriter since the 1980s, known for her engaging lyrics as well as for her melodious style. Since the publication of her chapbookThe Curative Harp in 2015, poetry has been added to the mix.  In 2017 she became writer-in-residence at Thomas Hardy’s Cottage. She continues to perform, together with her daughter Florence on harp, regularly at Max Gate – Thomas Hardy’s house in Dorchester. 

A two-page interview with VirginiaAstley is in the Autumn 2018 issue of the Thames Guardian, the magazine of the River Thames Society.  She talks about the river, her favourite locks and the poems and photos inspired by her walk along the river from source to city.


Gideon Coe, BBC 6 Music, Thursday 12 July 2018, 9pm-midnight

Virginia Astley was the guest on BBC 6 Music's Gideon Coe show’s Late Night Book Club on 12 July.  She was speaking about her poetry debut The English River as well as her music, and chose some of the tracks that were played.  Gideon also played two tracks by Virginia Astley: 'A Summer Long Since Passed' from Hope In a Darkened Heart, and 'It's Too Hot To Sleep' from her debut album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. They discussed the links between her music and her poetry.  Virginia spoke about her life-long connection with the River Thames, and her summer spent working as an assisant lock-keeper on the Thames.  She read her poems 'I breathe as though I've been submerged and am coming up for air', 'Lost in Locks' and 'Homecoming' from The English River.  They also spoke about her poems 'Mouslford to Cleeve' and 'Buscot'.

Click here to listen (this is a 25-minute edited version of the interview).


Praise for Virginia Astley from listeners to the show:

'One of the best hours of radio I've ever heard Gid' - Johnny, ex-lock-keeper on the Aire and Calder Navigation

'Lovely, ecclectic mix, but Virginia Astley is something else.' - James


The English River was Book of the Month for June 2018 on Caught by the River.  Poem & photograph from the book featured here.  An in-depth review by Richard King is here.


An interview with Virginia Astley is on Literature Works

'I think there’s a deep connection between song-writing and poetry. They feel like hybrid forms of the same thing.'  - Virginia Astley on her debut poetry collection in an interview with Literature Works.  For the full interview & review, click here.

[09 October 2018]

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