BLACK ARROW is an EP documenting the true story of one woman’s work in the British Space Programme of the 1960s, as a seventeen-year-old rocket engineer. BLACK ARROW was also a rocket developed in the 1960s on the Isle of Wight, UK (where I live), at a test facility overlooking The Needles. The project helped launch the British satellite Prospero in 1971. This release is a soundtrack inspired by BLACK ARROW; intended to serve as an audio documentation of British space endeavours, specifically highlighting women’s work in the field, using an interview with one of the few female rocket engineers working in such a role at the time, interwoven with experimental sonics and field recordings from what is left of the concrete rocket testing facility amongst nature's resplendent reclamation of the site. It has been made possible with the exceptionally kind support of Wight Aviation Museum and The National Trust staff at the original site at High Down. I've also been lucky enough to have Matt Horn and Mike James of the Portsmouth punk band Horseflies (https://horseflies.bandcamp.com) playing on the record, providing encouragement and sonic rocket fuel.
According to Marlene Irving, whose interview is at the centre of this release, many people on the island still don't know about the rocket testing at High Down, because of the secretive and previously classified nature of the work. In recent times, there has been an excellent art exhibition by Katayoun Dowlatshahi (in 2011) and also a detailed documentary by Joe Myerscough dedicated to BLACK ARROW and, now, there is an audio artefact which provides a record of women's contributions to the programme. I hope this release builds on what has gone before and gives people another way of discovering or remembering the ghosts of the British Space Programme. I also hope it inspires women in STEM and in music to pursue the work they want to do and to align with the stars that we all strive to reach.
Listen to the companion release ETHER/ORBIT here: robertafidora.bandcamp.com/album/ether-orbit
A cassette version (with ETHER/ORBIT) was also released by The Dark Outside in January 2022:
released June 27, 2020
Written and performed by Roberta Fidora, with Mike James on guitar and Matt Horn on drums. Recorded and mixed at Old Blacksmiths Studios by Neil Elliott, Portsmouth, UK. High Down field recording setup onsite by Brian Curtis from Wight Aviation Museum, Sandown, UK. Additional interview editing by Andrew
E. Wright. Mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal, CA. Artwork layout and concept by Roberta Fidora. Archival photographs used by kind permission of Sue Neale, John Neale and David Metcalfe at The National Trust Isle of Wight branch.
This record has been made possible with the exceptionally kind support of Wight Aviation Museum at Sandown Airport and The National Trust staff at the original site at High Down. Extra special thanks also to Andrew Chantler, Andy Mayo, Autumn Matthews, Dave Fletcher, David Bowie, Duane Mayhew, Ian Murphy, Jacob Hiles, Paul Humphreys, Phil Thomas, Rachel Shewen and Simon Pott for helping to fund this release. Special thanks also to Joe Watson and Jinx.
© Roberta Fidora and B.A.C. (Black Arrow Communications) 2020.
Find out more at robertafidora.start.page