Bella Hardy is a folk musician and composer from Edale, Derbyshire. In December 2015, she took up residency in Kunming, in China's Yunnan Province, as part of the British Council and PRS For Music Foundation Musicians in Residence programme. The programme is designed to enable innovative British musicians to explore new musical territory, reach new audiences and write new material in the context of a changing international market. In this heart-warming video, she gives us a snapshot of her time in China, immersing herself in a new culture and taking inspiration at every turn for her lucky red notebook. “I had an amazing time,” she said, “and learnt so much.”
"Many of us, myself included, know only about China's stereotypes," explained Bella, writing for Songlines earlier this year. "I can only speak for my experiences in Yunnan, but its traditions are many and beautiful and its people are incredibly sociable. I went with the hope of finding musical associations between our cultures, and some of their folk tradition reflects our own so closely it takes me completely by surprise."
Bella's residency came to a close in style on Christmas Eve, 2015: "I did a 45 minute set at Kunming's 500KM festival, a music festival run by my hosts Modern Sky Entertainment, with a 30,000 people attendance."
On returning to the UK, Bella found she had amassed a wealth of new material inspired by her time in China, including setting ancient poems to new music and had written her own poetry waiting to be turned into song. She performed some of the material in churches in the Peak District and even served Chinese tea!
You can follow Bella's journey through China with her interactive blog, which blends images and soundclips from her travels, and listen to this fascinating podcast about musical and cultural life in China recorded with Bella and her fellow Musicians in Residence, Mira Calix and Kerry Andrew.
Bella reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award in 2004, released her debut album Night Visiting in 2007 and won BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Best Original Song in 2012 for "The Herring Girl". She was named BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year in 2014 and released her latest album With the Dawn in 2015 blending confessional vocals, banjos, brass and beats.