"Music has always helped me through my ups and downs - whether it's IBD, my mental health or anything else - I want this music to help others. I want to be a voice for those who don’t feel like they have one or can speak out."
Meet Naomi Anstey, the Electronic Music Production student from Plymouth living with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Naomi is on a mission to raise awareness so others can understand what life is like for people living with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and other disorders categorised as IBD.
What is IBD?
If you're unfamiliar with the term, inflammatory bowel disease includes a group of disorders affecting the digestive system causing the intestines and other areas to become inflamed, they are often misunderstood at best.
For those who suffer with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, life can be challenging in a number of ways.
They are chronic illness, meaning they can be treated and managed with medication but there are currently no known cures. This can lead to periods of remission followed by flareups. Life can often be up and down with a massive strain on physical and mental health.
With the digestive system being the primary area that's affected, at times there can be a stigma attached leaving sufferers feeling ashamed or embarrassed to talk about the things they are experiencing.
Alongside living with IBD, people can suffer alone without a voice, something Naomi is passionate about altering - using music as a force change. We caught up with Naomi over Zoom to find out more about 'Project Gut Grief'.
Tell us about Project Gut Grief
"For the final year of my honours degree, I was asked to design and deliver a music product. I knew that I wanted to create a concept album, but it was especially important that the concept was something really important to me. I decided that it would be great to base the album around IBD, as this is something I experience every day.
I’m not personally shy about discussing poop (and all of the other things that come with this condition), but I find it sad to see so many others facing the consequences of the stigmas surrounding IBD.
I want the album to not only raise money for this charity but also raise awareness of what it can FEEL LIKE to live with this illness.
I was uncertain at first, but my course leader (Matt Ward) has really supported the idea the whole way and pushed me to overcome my fears and anxieties. I often feel like I can’t talk about my colitis as I’ve been pretty lucky thus far (no surgeries and minimal admissions), but I guess that really drives the point of why I’m doing this to begin with."
How do you make an album that feels like IBD?
"To solidify the concept of the album, I decided to base it around found sound (making music from everyday sounds). With the help of the forum on Facebook (Crohn's and Colitis UK Forum), I was able to generate a list of song names.
I posted questions asking about people’s experiences with IBD. I then created a sound list and developed storylines from the most common answers (each song has its own accompanying poem/story).
I wanted people to be able to listen to the album and think to themselves 'right this is what it's like to live with IBD on a daily basis'."
How did you approach addressing some of the specific stigmas around IBD?
"By creating music that conveys how it feels to have IBD everyday, so I've got tracks like 'eat' which highlights our experience around food. We're always being told 'you need to eat more or less' or that we are eating the wrong foods. This is usually by people who have no idea about the condition.
Also with IBD there are no specific foods you can or can't eat and the way everyone experiences the condition can be different. I can't eat onions but other people might have different food intolerances, for example.
The word 'eat' was always being brought up when I spoke to people online about their experiences. We often feel overwhelmed with advice around eating, so for this track I wanted the listener to be bombarded by eating sounds. There's lots of crunching, lots of sounds around eating and cooking.
Another similar example relates to people being obsessed with the idea that there is some magic cure to be found using herbal remedies. We are often told you don't need this treatment or medicine and that we should try this herb or this remedy.
The track 'Herbal Fix' starts calm with meditative breathing but goes in and out of focus, it finishes back where it started and is a metaphor for the fact that following this advice will not get you anywhere and you'll find yourself back where you started."
Project Gut Grief was written using recordings of found sounds, tell us a bit more about your creative process
"As a producer I tend to lean towards hip hop and r&b but for this album I didn't want to be pinned down by any genre. So what I did for this album was a wrote a shot poem or story around each basic concept for the tracks. I wrote the story then created a list of sounds that would work with the narrative. Then I got down to recording and producing using the sounds in my list.
The process really enjoyable, I experimented with my recordings to see how they could be used in interesting ways. I turned a recording of a toilet seat into a snare drum, fried mushrooms into a vinyl crackle, I did all sorts of funny things like that."
How can we support the project?
"The first thing to do would be check out the Instagram account, website and Facebook page where you can follow Project Gut Grief and get a behind the scenes insight into what I'm doing. If you want to pre-order the album head to my bandcamp page.
For those that pre-order the album (pre-orders close mid-march), they’ll receive cute little badge sets. I created a competition to get submissions for this, and selected my personal favourites. There will be a QR code on one of them (the 4th badge) that takes you to a secret page to download a bonus track and some artwork! You can preview these on Instagram, as well as keeping up to date on the project over there."
What are your plans for the future?
"When the project is completed all profits will be donated to the Crohn's and Colitis UK charity. I do want this project to continue even after the album is released, so I also made the Instagram page and a section on my website for it which I will continue to update.
I’m hoping Project Gut Grief can aid in creating community, as well as providing educational resources for those interested."
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