ON THE AiR: Sonia Allori – The Residency in Lyrics


Shared as part of ON THE AiR – a microfest celebrating DM’s Artists-in-Residence 2020, 26th Nov to 4th Dec.

The residency began in March with a lovely visit to DM headquarters at RichMix in London. It was a joyful few days and full of promise and opportunity and generally lovely fuzzy feelings about the prospect of what might lay ahead ……. until Covid entered the UK like a creeping menace and obliterated the hopes and dreams and lives of folks from all corners of society.

I had gotten a taste of working in London during October, November and December 2019 performing in The Lost Thing production at the Royal Opera House with Candoco and was looking forward to developing new work and connections in London with this new residency.

Sadly, this was not to be, but it wasn’t a total loss as the residency moved online instead and became a wholly different animal.

Elinor, Gareth & I wrote some new “hold music” for the newly lonely, deserted office telephone and then a podcast which described the transition of the residency in our minds from one thing to another type of thing ….


Quite surprisingly I found that words wanted to be written, lyrics really, and I found my way back into song-writing which was something I hadn’t expected.

I’d done an awful lot of really awful teenage angst-ridden songs many moons ago, and the love of words and music endured, and I made a PhD of it in later years. Some of these lyrics I wrote from time to time made it into actual songs and others remained unsung descriptions of points in time during the past few months.

I thought it might be interesting to include some of them here to show an upspoken side of the journey through the residency. PA wee bit interesting, I hope …. I’ve spared you the one about gluten free noodles and banana loaf!


What if robots met dinosaurs?
And danced the night away
Leaving footprints behind
For another day

What if igloos could stand
The heat of the sun
Would we hear the commotion?
Would we watch or would we run?

What if all the voices
In the world were heard
All our thoughts soaring, whirling
Then collected, in a pot & stirred

What if all of our faces
Looked exactly the same
Would we be more comfortable?
Or still find some to shame

What if elephants & big game hunters
Met & had a chat
Would they find some common ground?
Or be shot & trampled flat

What if robots met dinosaurs?
And danced the night away
Leaving footprints behind
For another day

These words appeared in May. We had been in lockdown for a few months and I was shielding. I was thinking about diversity and polar opposites meeting and how disparate questions and contexts could be more than just cannon fodder for collective apathy. It was never set to music, but it got me thinking a lot about stuff!


A blur of lights, softly coloured pastels, maybe the aurora borealis

Image: Donald Ellis Ross

The bothy is cold, but fair warms the heart.
Choose one with an actual door
Being cosy’s always smart.

Magical place of wonder and delight,
Watch a starry sky and go streaking in the night.

A nip of whisky can ward off many ills.
But in the height of a Scottish summer
In a bothy you’ll feel the chills.

Magical place of wonder and delight,
Be at one with nature and give natives a fright.

Banter and chatter and chewing the fat.
With kindred souls in a bothy
Conversation never falls flat.

Magical place of wonder and delight,
Historical tales and adventures with bite.

Stay there but for a day or two.
If the midges nibbling doesn’t finish you off
The brisk freezing hale in June just might do.

Magical place of wonder and delight,
Aye tis true the bothy sees you right.

This came into being in June. It was a month full of bothy’s …… what is a bothy? It’s a rustic rural shelter in Scotland, left unlocked and for anyone to use. Often up mountains and in isolated places. I was working for a lovely organisation called Sonic Bothy and was commissioned by still another organisation to write a ballad about a bothy. There was a whole lot of “bothy” going on!  It never made it into an actual song.


An unlit light above a door says 'meeting in progress', the door looks slightly abandoned with old tape and fixtures on it.

Image: Sonia Allori

The wind whispers through the trees
On a world brought to its knees

Try shutting up & listen

A sea of faces in the Zoom room
Consideration of the arts in the current gloom

Try shutting up & listen

Quiet thoughts and voices drowned
In a cacophony of louder sound
You can’t be gentle
You must be bold
Look at your things
And count your gold

Try shutting up and listen

Rain patters on windowpanes
Disabled folks look out they are used to the pain

Try shutting up and listen

Dying, learning, doing, thinking
Don’t stay still even for blinking

Try shutting up and listen

These words slithered into view during September when we were thinking about the given artistic provocation “Can listening be a form of activism”. The vast majority of them made their way into an actual song. It brought up a lot self-criticism, but I never could be the mouse that roared!?


Pain! It radiates, it circumnavigates the body. 
Pain!  Its twists & turns; the ways it makes you yearn for peace.

Pain! Makes you a child, it unleashes the wild within you. 
Pain! Inside your brain, becoming so ingrained you cry.

Pain! Without release, you’re fleeced of rhyme or reason. 
Pain! Questions the reasons why, you continue to try & be. 

Pain! Engulfs & envelopes, your sanity and hopes will leave you.
Pain! Becomes the master and the slave, you’re pushed and ever crave a break.

Pain! In the wee small hours, the loneliness 
it powers the breakdown. 
Pain! And then you wake again, you scrabble for strength and get a grip of those knickers. 

At least for a while ……. 

The latter half of the residency has been rather coloured with medical gubbins of one sort or another. I won’t bore you with the gory details …. It’s not very jolly ….. well, until the last bit! It felt good to express both physical and mental pain. I don’t think this was really meant for other folks to read but now, nearing the end of the residency it kind of describes the metaphysical bumps in the road so here it is. A tad raw and then a dash of Allori humour. Needless to say, it hasn’t made it into song.


What I hear is muffled
Small sounds grumbling
From another room.

What I see is twofold
With glasses or without
In focus or a delicious blur.

What I say is thoughtful
Not quick but fun and sometimes
Laced with slurring.
Though sadly not through gin!

What I know changes
From day to day I live,
I learn, I read and listen.

What I feel is sharp
It cuts to the quick
And aims for the heart.

What I do is goof and loon about.
A jester hiding
A melancholy soul behind a smile.

Who I am is nobody?
And everybody
And all that is between.

These words were written in October & November. They are going to make it into a song and one which you can hear on 3rd December at the AiR sharing event.

Would you believe that I managed to run over my NHS hearing aids with my NHS power wheelchair in early August? I was clumsy back in the days I could walk and am just as clumsy on wheels, an irony that I quite enjoy actually!

Sonia Allori, AiR, November 2020


Read more about ON THE AiR, the celebration of the DM Artists-in-Residence and find out how to book tickets to Sonia’s event.

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