St Agnes, Isles of Scilly. 49°53′N, 06°21′W. Population: 80
A tiny scrap of wind-carved rock, gorsey downland and fine sand dropped 28 miles from mainland Cornwall, with a vibrant working community encompassed by the Atlantic Ocean. The Rough Island Band sprouted from this precarious speck of soil in 2009 when an island piper whistled in the wind for three musicians in love with the place and its people.
Their songs reflect the feeling that a community’s history and stories should be set and celebrated in music. Unusually for a Celtic outpost, St Agnes has no surviving indigenous music. Stories of shipwreck and rescue, tunes for dancing and evocations of landscape have been written by the band in response to an extraordinary place and inspired by the powerful traditional Celtic music of neighbouring Cornwall.
The band members - Piers, Jim, Joe and John - each bring their own personal musical footprint to the overall sound, reflecting their separate journeys. The chemistry is pretty unique and the friendships, forged over many years on Scilly, are as important as the music - and certainly help foster the sense of joy onstage. There is no lead vocalist or ego within this band - it is an island-forged collective of equals. The instrumentation has changed slightly over the years as their sound has evolved but the current lineup of vocals, piano, guitar, drum kit and woodwind is serving them well, moving into the next project.