mark s williamson – a hole in the ground (available to pre-order 3rd July 2020)

Between 2013 and 2015 Mark Williamson visited a number of former Royal Observer Corps posts, mainly close to his then home in Essex. These posts had been built during the Cold War to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack.

“I’d learned about the posts whilst making the Spaceship album ‘Kelvedon Hatch’ and I had idea to visit some of these posts and make field recordings then use these raw recordings to produce pieces that evoked whatever I discovered. I soon realised the folly of attempting to find much in the way of ambient sound in a hole eight feet underground, but also discovered that, whatever state of repair the posts were in, there was usually something lying around that would make a sound.cover

After creating the pieces I devised a plan to interview ROC veterans and create an audio documentary but, despite amassing hours of interview recordings, I struggled to find a way to make it work. These pieces have languished on a hard drive ever since. Ultimately, I decided they should be released as they are. Many of the sites are in a state of ruin. Either bare concrete shells or vandalised and plundered. It was rare to find any traces of the equipment that would’ve been used to detect the power and direction of a nuclear blast, or the wind direction to predict fallout. Yet there was still something ghostly, still a remembrance of the countless drills and practices that had taken place whilst the posts were active.

Like much Cold War architecture, these posts were little known at the time and have been treated poorly since the disbanding of the Corps in 1994. After these recordings were finished I was lucky enough to visit a couple of posts that had been restored and, after spending so much time in so many damp, filthy ruins, it was like time travel to enter an identical space down the same ladder and find a fully restored and equipped post.

So this is a monument to the mainly forgotten volunteers of the Royal Observer Corp. Men and women who, as the posts were not bunkers, not fully protected from radiation, would’ve been willing to sacrifice their lives for the survival of others.

One day, perhaps, I will figure out how to use the interviews I recorded and will tell the story in more detail but for now, this is A Hole in the Ground.” Mark S Williamson, Todmorden, July 2020.

Thanks to: Graham Coe, Norman Hart, Christopher Howard, Edwina Holden, Mark and Ed at Cuckfield, Clint Marler, Bob McKintosh, Jenny Morris and Fred Rowntree.

Release date: 17th July 2020                         web:

Track List:

1: chigwell                               (5:04)

2: great dunmow                     (4:58)

3: hatfield peverel                   (4:03)

4: henham                               (4:28)

5: braintree                             (2:02)

6: much hadham                      (4:27)

7: tendring                               (4:40)

8: nazing                                  (3:24)

9: ongar                                   (6:00)

10: attack warning red            (4:44)

Recorded and produced by mark s williamson. All tracks created from sounds found at Royal Observer Corps posts, with the exception of ‘attack warning red’ which was processed from the message that would be broadcast to posts in the event of an imminent nuclear attack.           IMG_5774

Humpty Dumpty: A Modern Prom-egg-theus

I wrote this for a modelled write at work, but I quite liked it so here you go:

Once upon a time there was an egg and his name was Humpty Dumpty. One day, Humpty Dumpty was strolling through a verdant green forest. In the trees, the birds were singing whilst new born lambs gambolled in the nearby fields.

At that very moment, Humpty felt like he was the happiest little egg in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, his happiness was to be short lived…

Whistling a merry tune, Humpty continued on his ramble through the countryside and eventually began to feel a little hungry.

“Time to eat my packed lunch,” he said to himself (and to the butterfly fluttering around his face).

Looking around for somewhere to sit, Humpty Dumpty spotted a wall. It was, he thought, a little high but it looked easy to climb and wide enough to sit upon. Carefully, Humpty climbed the wall. The grey stone was dry, and his eggy feet gripped easily. After less than two minutes of climbing Humpty Dumpty found himself sat on the wall.

Meanwhile, a full complement of cavalry guards were practicing manoeuvres. The King’s horses and the King’s men worked together perfectly. Almost silently, they moved in squares, changed formation, and prepared for imaginary attacks. Presently, they came to break for refreshments.

“Sir?” asked a young corporal.

“Yes, Corporal Jenks?” replied the commanding officer.

“Do you see on that wall over there? It looks like an egg eating its lunch.” pointed out the corporal.

“By golly you’re right!” exclaimed the CO, “It looks like that idiot Humpty Dumpty. We’d better get over there and check he’s safe!”

With that the CO ordered all his troops to advance on Humpty’s position, but they were to be too late…

Atop his wall, Humpty Dumpty was admiring the view. As he looked to the distance he saw a beautiful flock of geese flying in a perfect V formation towards him. He admired the birds as they flew closer and closer. As they began to fly overhead, he leant backwards to see them. Being an egg, and therefore having no neck, Humpty was obliged to bend back from the knees. Fascinated by the birds Humpty leant back further and further and further until his little legs could support him no more.

Before Humpty realised what was happening his egg body was tumbling down the wall. As time slowed in his mind he wondered if he would survive such a great fall.

Splat! Humpty hit the ground. His shell cracked into a hundred pieces and his yolky innards began to spread around him in the short grass. At that moment, all the King’s Horses and all the King’s men arrived on the scene.

“Heelllppp,” murmured the mortally wounded eggman.

“Quickly,” ordered the commanding officer, “put him back together again!”

For hours the military surgeons laboured over the stricken Humpty Dumpty but to no avail. In the end they reported that this egg was truly fried. Sinking into his saddle, the CO thought long and hard.

“Well,” he said finally, “you may not be able to put him back together again, but I know a man who can. Men! Collect the fragments of this forlorn ovoid. We ride for castle of Dr. Frankenstein!”

The already rotting scraps of shell and slowly desiccating albumen were scooped up into a large jar and loaded onto a cart. The cavalry unit then began the march the mountain retreat of the famous scientist, Dr. Frankenstien.

As they rode on, tall mountains rose to flank the path. At their peaks, snow still covered the rough and rugged rocks. Occasionally, the soldiers would hear the bleat of a mountain goat or the screech of an eagle.

After a day’s ride, they arrived at the castle. Its dark stone walls rose vertically from the mountain side and the only entrance was via a heavy wooden door. At the top of the highest turret, a curious set of antennae and other strange metal structures reached skyward.

The commanding officer dismounted his horse and stepped towards the door. With his gloved and armoured hand, he rapped three times.

“Frankenstein! Its me, the Major. We have need of your aid!” he called out.

Slowly the door opened and stood within was a small man in a white coat, his hair wild and singed.

“I know vhy you here,” he said softly with a hint of an accent, “bring him in.”

Carefully, the soldiers carried Humpty’s jar up to Frankenstein’s laboratory. There he was unpacked and laid out on the doctor’s table.

“Ve are forecast storms tonight,” said the doctor, “Zis is gut.”

Piece by piece Frankenstein glued, stitched and stapled Humpty’s shell back together. When the body was whole again, he poured in what was left of Humpty’s eggy insides through a hole he had left at the top. Much had been lost, so Frankenstein topped Humpty up with a strange, green, bubbling fluid he poured from a steel barrel.

Finally, the stricken eggman was strapped into a chair from which wires and cables reached to a great electrical contraption of dials, levers and switches and then on, upwards, to the ceiling of the room.

“Now ve vait for ze storm,” said Frankenstein.

Night fell swiftly in the mountain and storm clouds began to gather. The distant sound of thunder drew closer as the doctor made adjustments to his machine. Eventually the storm was upon them. Lightning struck the conductors and coursed through the machine and into the wrecked body of Humpty. His eggy frame convulsed as he was filled with frightening power.

Suddenly Humpty’s eyes opened wide and wild. He ripped off the shackles that bound him and leapt from the table, his face a contorted grimace.

“I am the eggman!” he cried. Lightning flew from his fingers toward the gathered soldiers and Dr. Frankenstein. “You are the eggmen!” he screeched. As the lightning wrapped around the assembled throng they began to change, their bodies growing rounded, their faces sinking down to their chests until they were as egg-like as the monster before them.

“I am the Walrus!” wailed the Humpty-creature triumphantly as long tusks grew from his mouth and long whiskers sprouted from his face.

With that he bounded from the room, down the stairs to the courtyard and out of the castle doors, never to be seen again.

Now, many years later, if you were to travel to those misty European mountains, perhaps you would hear the story told children to scare them to bed.

“Beware the toothy-eggy man,

He will catch you if he can,

He’ll turn you to an eggman too,

And that will be the end of you…”

Spaceship – Outcrops

This May will see the release of the first spaceship album to be released on vinyl. Focussing on a series of sandstone outcrops above the West Yorkshire town of Todmorden, Outcrops is an exploration of the geological history of the Upper Calder me  complete an undergraduate degree in Earth Science in the 1990s, each track was created to invoke a particular phase of that history, namely the interbedded sandstones and siltstones of the Millstone Grit, the formation of the Yorkshire coal measures and finally the glaciation of the valley during the last ice age.

The album was recorded in the field, in a series of small caves where I created the pieces that make up the album whilst almost encased within the landscape I was describing. These recordings were then treated to minimal editing and post production in the home studio at the base of the hills where the recordings were made. In this way the album becomes analogous to many of the local stone buildings, the materials from which they were built often having travelled just a few hundred yards to the site of the building’s final construction.
Finally, whereas last year’s The Last Days (The Dark Outside Recordings) was about leaving my Essex home of the last twelve years, Outcrops is about the discovery of somewhere new.

Artwork by the magnificent Maxim Peter Griffin

Release 24th May 2019. Pre order from WIAIWYA 

Radio Round Up

Here’s a few bit of radio play Spaceship has enjoyed recently. All these shows are well worth a listen for the wealth of fantastic music played. I’m in awe of those who spend time listening to, and broadcasting, lesser heard sounds and I’m always proud when my music is played amongst all the other great stuff.

First up was a play on Phantom Circuit on Resonance Extra. 

Sonic Imperfections gave a track a spin on Resonance FM. There’s a good description of how the last album was made on there too.

Last but not least, Gated Canal Community saw fit to include a track on their latest show on Reform Radio.

Thank you all.


spaceship news

I hope the summer finds you well and sun is shining when required. As you may have seen the latest spaceship album, ‘a prospect of loughton brook‘, received some great reviews, including in Electronic Sound and Shindig magazines. Tracks also got airplay on Gideon Coe’s 6Music show, Pete Paphides Soho Radio show and a number of other plays online and over the airwaves. electronic sound review

shindig reviewThe initial run of 50 deluxe CDs has now sold out, but a second edition is available for pre-order, in slimmed down packaging, for anyone who missed out.

Coming soon there will be a new album, preceded by an EP. The album is called ‘fields 2: from the sea to the moor, via the forest and the cdcoversstones’. Like 2016’s ‘fields: churches and rivers’, the tracks were recorded out on location but, whereas the first album was made using mostly acoustic instruments, these tracks are mainly made using a variety of iPad apps played through a speaker and recorded, along with any ambient noise, with a microphone. There is also a dusting of rudimentary alto recorder.

ep cover


The music was recorded in a number of locations in Essex, Yorkshire and Kent, including three tracks recorded in Epping Forest. The preceding EP takes a track from the album, ‘the imagined view, as yet unblighted’ (recorded at Coldrum Long Barrow in Kent), and to it adds three additional pieces recorded at pre-historic sites in Cornwall. The EP will be released on 3 inch CD followed by the album in the usual deluxe, recycled card packaging. Artwork for both releases comes, as is becoming tradition, from the excellent Maxim Peter Griffin.

The EP will launch on 25th August, with the album following in the autumn. All the best for the rest of the summer.

Mark Williamson

Essex, July 2017






spaceship – a prospect of loughton brook

The latest spaceship album, ‘a prospect of loughton brook‘ is now available to pre-order buy. I’m really proud of this album and it probably represents the most work I’ve every put into one release.

front cover

Here’s the blurb:

A Prospect of Loughton Brook is the fifth album from Mark Williamson’s Spaceship. The album was recorded and produced over two weekends in January of this year. It consists of binaural and hydrophone recordings, augmented with piano, synthesizer and strings. The album traces the journey, from source to mouth, of Loughton Brook, a small stream in Epping Forest. Some of the recordings are left raw and unprocessed, others processed and altered. Some pieces have added instrumentation others are left alone.
The piece reflects the journey. The sounds of the transition from the steep sided valley of the upper reaches, in Great Monk Wood, through the meanders below Baldwins Pond and under the houses and shops of Loughton itself; before the stream emerges from a culvert to flow through Loughton recreation ground and on to its confluence with the River Roding. The cultural and geographical changes along the stream’s relatively short route are pronounced. Whilst the hum of aircraft and the drone of traffic is a constant in Epping Forest, the transition from north to south brings more human sounds. First dog walkers and families, then the sounds of suburban Loughton and finally the muted roar of the M11.

Pre-order from . Release date 12th May 2017.

American Civil Liberties Union

This Friday Bandcamp have pledged all profits they make to the American Civil Liberties Union who are working tirelessly to combat the discriminatory and unconstitutional actions of the American president.

In solidarity with this action I will also donate any money I make on Friday from Spaceship Pictures and H.U.M. purchases, to the same organisation. There will also be a new, pay what you want, track available called ‘Not This Time’.

This is what I’ve written on the page:

‘I believe what’s happening in America is dangerous. And not just in America, across Europe right wing thought and politics is gaining ground. The politics of blame, of discrimination and of hate.
On 3rd February 2017, Bandcamp have pledged all profits to the American Civil Liberties Union. On that same day any profits made by this shop will go in the same direction. Including any revenue from this track,
In times like that this it is important not to feel helpless and overwhelmed. I know many of us, as individuals, cannot do a lot, but maybe we can do something. And a lot of small somethings can, perhaps, make big things happen.’


Traffic Report: An Introduction

One cold, bright October morning I was sitting on a coach loaded with excited nine year old children. We were on our way to the Royal Greenwich Observatory and, having spent an age stuck in traffic on the edge of Walthamstow, we had just exited the Blackwall Tunnel, re-emerging into the crisp autumn sunshine, the clear blue sky punctuated only by the white slashes of con trails from the airliners of Heathrow and London City airports. I too was excited. This was my first year of teaching. I was an NQT, a ‘newly qualified teacher’ and this was the first trip where I alone would have the responsibility for the 30 children of my class and the three parents that had gamely volunteered to accompany us.

I was also excited because I love science and space and museums. We had a slot booked in the planetarium, which I had never visited, but promised much. As we edged towards our destination I tracked our progress on my phone. Leaving the Blackwall Tunnel approach road we ascended a slip road and there, on the screen in my hand, I saw the words ‘Sun in the Sands’. The famous Sun in the Sands! Quickly, I pressed my face to the window of the coach and scanned the vicinity and there, just off the roundabout to the left, was a pub, also named The Sun in the Sands.

I use the word ‘also’ deliberately. Until that exact moment in time the Sun in the Sands had been a place, an area, a location and, more than that, it had been an abstract concept on the morning traffic reports. I had never even considered that it might be something else. It might be a pub.


The Sun in the Sands Roundabout

Prior to training to become a teacher, I had commuted, by car, the thirty miles from our home in Loughton to my previous workplace just south of Watford. This was a journey fraught with peril. At any point between The Wake Arms Roundabout and Sandy Lane in Northwood there could be a crash, a breakdown, roadworks, temporary traffic lights, a gas leak, a burst water main, horses on the slip road, lane closures, a police investigation, a presidential cavalcade. These are just some of the many reasons that I would have to go off-piste. I developed an expert knowledge of the side roads, back roads, short cuts and cut-throughs, the rat runs and other alternative routes that could avoid the congestion.

Central to my ability to get to work on time was Radio 2’s traffic report. First genial Terry Wogan and then excitable Chris Evans would introduce these reports and, although they covered the whole country, there would often be more traffic around London than anywhere else. It was here that I first heard the names. In the soothing, reassuring yet authoritative tones of Lynne Bowles and Sally Boazman, amongst others, came news of incidents at the Hanger Lane Gyratory, Apex Corner, Clacket Lane Services, Chertsey, the Crooked Billet and many more. These names became part of the rhythm of the report. They prevented it becoming a dirge of road numbers and gloom. They added a little mystery, almost a little fun. Moreover they seemed to me a very British thing. I have no idea if other countries have such names on their traffic reports, but I felt it unlikely. Firstly because these seemed to be names routed in the past, in a road system based around thoroughfares that had been in use since medieval, Roman and often even prehistoric times. I wasn’t sure if names like this would be found on the LA freeway and they seemed a long way from the precision of ‘43rd and Fifth’. Secondly in my experience, as we are with the weather, that as a nation we perhaps have an obsession with traffic.

We certainly have an obsession with directions. Mention in conversation a planned visit to a friend in Dorchester and immediately those present will extol the virtues of their various convoluted routes. Don’t follow the Sat Nav. Turn off at the junction before. You want to go on the M4 and cut down through Salisbury. Of course, none of this chicanery would be necessary were Britain’s roads free flowing and traffic free. The best route would be the most direct route on the fastest roads but this is rarely the case. How was your journey? This is the question asked of friends on arrival. Be it from a tube journey from Hammersmith or a 300 mile drive from Blackpool. Not too bad. A bit sticky around Watford Gap. Someone had gone under a train at Holborn. Just the roadworks on the Thelwall Viaduct.

In 2011 Great Britain was estimated to have around 245,000 miles of road. There are also around 35 million vehicles licensed for use on those roads. Staggeringly, that equates to an average of one vehicle every eleven metres. Clearly all 35 million of these vehicles are not on the road at the same time, but also many thousands of those miles of roads were remote mountain roads and country lanes, residential streets and other unclassified roads. The motorway network made up just 1% of the total length of roads and A-roads made up 12%. Stack all this up and it is small wonder we have a lot of traffic and small wonder we hear a lot about it. The BBC has regular bulletins throughout the day on national and local radio as well as a traffic website. Independent radio stations run their own traffic reports. Information from the Highways Agency is used to create these reports as well as information from local authorities and crowd sourced from listeners calling or texting in to report problems. On top of all these sources Google even source data from people using Google Maps on their phones to relay back how fast they are travelling.

Surrounded by all this traffic, and all these ways of reporting it, it is clear why the names mentioned earlier have become part of our national consciousness. Which brings me back to that October morning in 2014. Realising the Sun in the Sands was an actual place I then began to wonder about its history, its place. I began to wonder how I could explore the Sun in the Sands and those other mysterious locales known to me only from their invocation by Boazman, Bowles, Pepper, Lang, Merchant and the rest. Then, arriving at the observatory and spending the day herding children around the various buildings and exhibits, the thought was forgotten, replaced with the fear that someone would wander off, the panic that we would not get back up the hill from lunch in time for slot in the planetarium and the pride when children from my class surprised the presenter in the planetarium with their knowledge that the fourth man on the Moon was Alan Bean.

It was a new camera, a renewed interest in field recording and a determination that, as a teacher, I needed to do my own thing at the weekends, which lead me to begin this project. I would document the traffic black spots of London in film, sound and words. I would not research these places until the morning of my visit. The films would be short, two or three minutes, edited and published quickly. If this worked I would travel further afield. The Black Cat Roundabout near Bedford. Scotch Corner. Gloucestershire’s Air Balloon. This would be the undertaking and it would begin with shaky hand held film made at Charlie Brown’s Roundabout in Woodford.


Flyovers at Charlie Brown’s Roundabout

Traffic Report No.1: Charlie Brown’s Roundabout

Traffic Report No.2: Clacket Lane Services

Traffic Report No.3: The Polish War Memorial

Traffic Report No. 4: The Sun in the Sands