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  • Writer's pictureBasement Leeds

A chat with Iona Lane

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

On the folk scene in Leeds and her new debut album, Hallival, released 25th March 2022.


Iona Lane is a Leeds based folk singer-songwriter and recent Leeds Conservatoire

graduate. Her lyrics draw deeply from wild landscapes, particularly those of Scotland, with Lane’s album’s debut name ‘Hallival’ coming from a mountain on Scotland’s Isle of Rum. She recalls once-hating long family walks that take on a new significance with age and time, ‘in hindsight it was amazing, but at the time me and my two brothers hated it, being dragged up hills and on long walks… when you’re a kid you have no appreciation for the places you are.’ ‘As I’ve grown up I realise I agree with my parents! …. It led me to find different parts of Scotland I really liked, and then led to more songs about newer places’. A great example of this on the album is ‘Western Tidal Swell’, using lyrics full of powerful natural imagery to create a strong sense of place, ‘It’s all about the Isle of Rum off the West Coast, my parents haven’t visited and slightly envious that I have!’. This is a theme that runs through her songs and that she carries onto the stage. Lane emphasises the importance of ‘ writing… songs that have strong story connections to specific places’ to create an atmosphere within the album of not only a personal bond with the land but a sense of shared history and feeling of belonging within the lyrics, added to by the comingling of myth, folklore and historical events.

She invites the audience to realise a multitude of ways to connect to a landscape and its history, whilst making her music one of them, ‘When I play and perform, I’m in a different place each song, or have very strong imagery of where I might be, or the song is set’. A more tangible way her music not only connects to the past of the landscape but works to create its future is through ‘Schiehallion’, inspired by the 1744 Schiehallion experiment to measure the density of the Earth on a Scottish mountain, and an ensuing violin-based fire. It is being released as a single with the proceeds donated to The John Muir Trust, a conservation charity dedicated to the experience, protection and repair of wild spaces in the UK.

I was curious to find out Lane’s thoughts on attending the Conservatoire, the Leeds music university, and any advice she might give to others trying to follow her path. While she states the importance of being able to play with ‘a range of musicians’, Lane had her sights set high, “I didn’t see LCoM [the conservatoire] as an end point… I was absorbing everything I could while I was there and {trying to} continue that trajectory’. Her advice to other students involves not being too caught in the ‘bubble’ that the college can create, to maintain working relationships with musicians separately and ‘continue gigging’ both inside and outside of the conservatoire.

Basement Leeds is female led, so it’s only natural the questions eventually turned to Lane’s specific experience as a woman in music, and my curiosity about the accessibility of the burgeoning folk scene in Leeds, a city known mostly for its jazz and rock scenes, both typically male dominated genres. Female independence and drive takes a spotlight in the album through the track Mary Anning, a famous female fossil hunter who was undervalued by the scientific community and forced to sell her findings to male colleagues, as the famous tongue twister goes. Incorporating the twister into Lane’s lyrics draws attention to the institutional sexism undermining much of Annin'g's career, it feels like a more personal retelling and recognition of her work and legacy, one woman to another. Lane talks on the specific experience of being a woman in the folk scene in Leeds, ‘There are a lot of problems women face within the folk scene, audiences tend to be older and not as forward thinking as younger generations, I know artists who have had inappropriate behaviour at gigs from audience members and other male artists.’ She further stresses the work that still has to be done in terms of creating safer and bigger spaces for minorities, ‘Something that is massively important with the folk scene, and the scene in Leeds, is we need to see more diversity and more representation of people of colour, from different ethnic backgrounds in the folk scene…I think we’re quite behind and we need to do something about it’. However, Lane is optimistic for the future of a tolerant space in Leeds, ‘It’s definitely something that’s being addressed a lot more in the folk scene’’ pointing out movements in the right direction like the collective ‘Esperance’ (meaning hope) created by people who want to address and tackle gender issues in the English folk scene and the BIT collective, a movement with a similar aim of addressing equality issues in Scottish folk and traditional music, ‘who are working very hard and doing amazing things to bring to light the problems of being a woman or non-binary person in the scene’. In addition, the podcast ‘Thank Folk for Feminism’ takes an intersectional approach and ensures marginalised groups within the umbrella of ‘woman’ are platformed, something Lane is also passionate about in terms of the development of the folk scene in Leeds. As Iona says, ‘There is a definite place for folk in Leeds’- watch this space!


Iona Lane’s album launch is happening at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds on 8th April 2022. Her tour dates, merch and other details can be found on her website www.ionalane.com


Words by Beth Johnson

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