Heaven and Hell with art-rocker Karen Reilly of The Neutrinos

The Neutrinos

The Neutrinos - Credit: Archant

Karen Reilly is writer and performer with the art-rock band The Neutrinos and co-founder of the award winning KlangHaus, a promenade live music show that reacts to the architecture of the 'venue', be it a bus depot, animal hospital or The Royal Festival Hall ceiling. Karen also helps run the hugely loved Playhouse Bar in Norwich city centre and lives in a 300 year old converted city centre pub. Karen talks to Gina Long

Karen Reilly of The Neutrinos

Karen Reilly of The Neutrinos - Credit: Archant

What is your connection to East Anglia?

Norwich School of Art brought me here, now called Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). I studied photography and after graduating, went onto The Royal College of Art in London. I returned to Norfolk as I was in a touring band that was based here. To complete the circle, I now guest lecture at NUA.

What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?

The trees, my favourites are the gnarly trees in Breckland. I call them the dinosaur trees. As a kid I had a dinosaur colouring book and the trees looked just like the ones you see on the drive from Norwich to London near Thetford. I grew up in well-groomed Surrey near the North Downs, so windswept trees bending away from the wind, also seen along the coast and those trees that look like monsters on their lonesome next to country roads in Norfolk, are just magical.

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What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?

The lack of diversity. Things are changing and Norwich life is getting culturally richer.

What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market… I don't eat meat, which apparently is second to none, but the atmosphere and the art is truly inspiring…Damien Hirst in the ladies loo, Tracy Emin neons in the restaurant, Paula Rego fallen women pen and inks, Gilbert and George… I'm literally in heaven.

What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

One of many episodes. I live in the centre of Norwich, so drinks at Hawthorn's Cocktail Bar in the 'secret' lounge upstairs, a film at Cinema City, food at the Bicycle Shop; a gig at Norwich Arts Centre, an art 'happening' at Dove Street Studios, with late drinks at the Playhouse Bar.

What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Holkham Beach. I feel so proud to take friends there… the way the landscape reveals itself, pure theatre, the sandy duckboards lead you from the car-park, twist and turn and suddenly rise and there before you, miles of sandy beach, sand dunes, fringed by deep pine forest, a magical wonderland.

What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

I think the Spiegeltent in Norwich's Chapelfield Gardens as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival… the atmosphere, the outside bar, the expectation, the brilliant people I see there.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?


What is always in your fridge?

Or rather, what spends the least amount of time in my fridge from arriving to consuming…. Cheeeeeese.

What's your simple philosophy of life?

I visualise things/events I'd like to happen, draw them and put them in a cupboard. Many of them come true. Note to self: be careful what you wish for.

What's your favourite film?

2001 A Space Odyssey – The imagination of it blows my mind. I love to be dumbfounded and surprised by art/music/film.

What was your first job?

I grew up on a pig farm, feeding the pigs.

What is your most treasured possession?


Who do you admire most?

People who publicly challenge the idea of value in our society. Art and music hold huge value as do the caring professions and cleaners, but it's the lawyers, property developers and finance folks who can make an easier buck.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Lunch made by someone else.

What do you like about yourself most?

I have good shoulders, physically and metaphorically.

What's your worst character trait?

Riding my high horse.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Christmas in Barcelona

Best day of your life?

So far, the 82 sell out shows of KlangHaus performed at The Royal Festival Hall.

To walk into 'work' each day, with a sense of belonging to such an iconic building (the RFH) and then to play a kind of hide-and-seek with the audience whilst singing, which is what KlangHaus is to me. Often seeing friends and family and people I love amongst the audience.... and I'm so close when performing that I can give them a squeeze... that ticks all my boxes for a perfect day.

What's your favourite breakfast?

Many layers with lots of friends.

What's your favourite tipple?

Whisky. Neat. Ideally Auchentoshan, it means corner of the field in Gaelic. Hopefully not where you unexpectedly wake up!

What's your hidden talent?

Noticing people's movements and walks, which can come into play if I'm recounting a story.

When were you most embarrassed?

At school, 10 years old, singing in the Christmas play about the universe, I was a planet, yes, Uranus… I had to sing, 'God gave me strength, my name is Uranus'. Nicola Stedman's Dad laughed a long time, very loudly.

What's your earliest memory?

Listening to the birds whilst in the pram.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Mr Blue Sky by ELO. It's a journey of emotions.

Tell us something people don't know about you?

I was one of three women head-hunted to sing for a band called Garbage. The best gal won.

What's the worst thing anyone

has ever said to you?

'Give up'… It was someone over hearing one of our band rehearsals next to the river in Norwich…they called it through a drain pipe and it entered the room like a prophesy… We laughed a lot and use it against each other on regular occasions.

Tell us why you live here.

Community, friendship, support, love and being able to walk everywhere.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

The Neutrinos' 20th Anniversary show at The Norwich Arts Centre. on January 26th at 8pm.

Amazingly, 2019 marks 20 years since the first Neutrinos gig. Every performance is a one-off event, blurring the boundaries between music and live art and between performer and audience. Artist Sal Pittman, collaborator and long-term inspiration, will be lighting the show and we also have very special guests Graceland performing.

Don't expect it to be normal.

To see Karen and The Neutrinos, tickets for the show are available from www.norwichartscentre.co.uk