Jez Colborne – Resident Artist - Mind the Gap

Jez Colborne – Resident Artist

Interviewed 2014

Jez Colborne is an international artist, musician and composer. He has a rare condition called Williams syndrome – a genetic condition that brings some striking verbal abilities, perfect pitch and particularly – an affinity for music.

Jez could sing before he could talk! He has been working with Mind the Gap since 1998 after being discovered at an Arts Festival in his hometown Nottingham. Collaborating on a wide range of projects with diverse artists, Jez always aims to create something no one has created before. He challenges people’s perceptions of artists who have a learning disability and ultimately create a world of positive chaos!

Music is Jez’s passion and he is interested and inspired by rock, contemporary and world music as well as non-traditional instruments such as sirens, shipping containers and foghorns!

“I’m absolutely mad about objects that create unusual sounds. My passion began with my fascination in wide-area warning sirens, like the type they use in quarries to signal that they are going to blast or in a petrol-chemical plant to warn the people around if there is a disaster. When I was a kid there was a part time fire station near me, it used to go off every morning and afternoon.


I heard it on many occasions. One day in particular sticks in my mind when I went to the supermarket in town with my mum. The fire station was right behind the supermarket, and as soon as I got there the siren screamed to life like a huge monster – it was deafening! For a long time after that I didn’t like them and definitely didn’t want to listen to them. “

Jez’s anxiety around sirens became instrumental in creating his first commission –Irresistible. Whilst on tour with Mind the Gap, Jez confronted his fear and researched different sounds sirens made.

“I felt that as a musician – even though it might be harsh for my ears – there are loads of tones to them and they all have their own voice; just really loud, like an opera singer. I started listening to them as musical instruments, my fear went away and I started to be more and more interested in them.


My project Irresistible involves using lots of types of sirens to create a symphony. It brings a whole new meaning to the word siren, mixing them with choirs, bands and lighting to make sirens the star of the show.


It’s about using danger, excitement and risk to create a new piece!”

Jez exploded onto the music scene with Irresistible at the London 2012 Olympic Games when all the eyes of the world were watching. Since, it has toured across the world from places around the UK to Beijing, Wales, Switzerland and Germany. It has also inspired Jez for two new pieces of work – Gift and Trickster.

Gift and Trickster follows the tales of Greek Mythology, the Trojan Horse, of Odysseus  – a man on a journey, a long way from home.

Gift is a new show commissioned by PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music Biennial. It is uniquely developed from Irresistible but taking the inspiration behind exploring new instruments. Instead of sirens, Jez is creating work in, on and around a shipping container. Investigating different ways in which he can use it to create diverse sounds.

It represents another chapter in Jez’s journey as a learning disabled musician, inspired by working with MA students from Leeds University he wanted to discover what it feels like to be contained and what that means.

“I want the audience to go through a mix of emotions, from wary and confused, to elation and amazement. It will be 15 minutes of new and exhilarating music.


Trickster is the next part of our story, but an entirely different kettle of fish!


The container travels to Galway, Ireland, and opens out into a ginormous space with endless possibilities for movement, dancing and performance. It’s more a music-performance piece with a bigger cast. It’s going to include all my experiences of Galway, the industry, the weather and being stranded on Inisheer with really cool people. They all had different stories to tell, in the middle of a storm, it was such a powerful experience!


I really enjoy meeting new people with different and diverse cultural backgrounds, they become part of my story and I weave them into the work I produce in collaboration with Mind the Gap.”

Jez currently resides in Nottingham with two friends and his cat Felix.