Abigail Ward stands in front of a wall with graffiti on it wearing a denim jacket and WIRE t-shirt

I’m a queer, neurodivergent artist working with sound, music and words. I have also worked as a freelance DJ, writer and exhibition curator for over 15 years. I am a creative facilitator for Drake Music, a charity that opens up access to music for Disabled people of all ages. I’m also a co-founder of Manchester Digital Music Archive. I left this organisation in 2020 to focus on my creative work.

The common element across all of my endeavours is the urge to tell a story, share a road-trip, to connect.

I play reverb-drenched tremolo guitar (think David Lynch) and sing. I produce electronic music and atmospheric podcasts. I write lyrics, prose poetry, polemic. I am motivated by the desire to create moments of healing and transcendence through music. This often involves exploring difficult themes, such as loss, shame and isolation. The most absorbing quality for me in any piece of music is a sense of mystery: something unknowable, but hinted at.

I seek to create music that communicates something that words cannot. But I like to use words to lead the listener into a state of openness and receptivity in order that they may better connect.

I am passionate about the soundsystem as an instrument, which springs from my interest in dub.

Abigail Ward DJ Mix

Inspired by the four sections of ‘Weather’ I would like to create four individual pieces of ambient, dub and drone influenced music, which I will then ‘mix’ into one long piece, as I would a DJ set. This suite could be performed in a variety of settings, and would be different every time. Using DJ software, I would create live, on-the-fly edits of my own work, add FX and drop in samples.

The sections will be informed by the rising and falling emotions ‘Weather’ evokes within me, but also by weather itself. I live in a tower block in social housing. I am lucky enough to be able to see rain rolling into Manchester from the Pennines. I see the sun rising over Kinder Scout and setting behind Media City. I hear the Beetham tower singing from just a short distance down the road. I often capture these sounds on my wav recorder and will use them as a jumping-off point.

I will write a piece of prose poetry to overlay each track – these words will be voiced by fellow Disabled artists, some with speech differences, because it is rare to hear these sorts of Northern Voices in a musical context.

‘Not Going Shopping’ – a creative podcast commissioned by Manchester Pride
‘Unity is Strength’ – a creative podcast commissioned by Manchester Histories

I have been following Manchester Collective for a while, and have been excited by the quality and diversity of the work being produced, and the very obvious commitment to collaboration and inclusion. Every time an artistic opportunity has come up through MC, I have been made aware of it by Steph Clarke and asked to share it through my network of Disabled musicians. Few others are contacting me with comparable opportunities. I particularly loved the film created with Blackhaine and my friend Simon Buckley.

Therefore, I am most excited by the potential for collaboration. I have been experiencing a period of intense professional isolation, dating back to before the pandemic hit, and the thought of being able access MC as a creative sounding board inspires me. I am new to creating electronic music, so will undoubtedly benefit from a little support around the edges. I am seeking artistic companionship above anything else at this moment in my creative life.

‘Gwenoldy’ – a first attempt at making electronic music

For many years I have struggled to prioritise my own creativity, focusing instead on creating opportunities for others. A recent Arts Council England  ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant gave me the chance to investigate the barriers I have faced to making music. Now, armed with a deeper knowledge of myself and my access requirements, I am ready again to apply for commissions, without risking sensory overload and burn-out.

I have thought of myself as an artist for much of my life, but I find myself at an unexpected confluence in my musical development. I need paid opportunities to make work and build a portfolio of music that accurately represents where I am now. This commission would give me a real chance to learn and grow in a supportive environment, helping me to draw together the disparate strands of my practice in audio production, DJing and writing.

‘Killing Song’ by Long Lost Son
(rhythm guitar and backing vocals)