The publication of her acclaimed autobiography in 2017 set in motion a chain of events that found Cosey Fanni Tutti standing shoulder to shoulder with Delia Derbyshire and a medieval mystic called Margery Kempe. With her new ‘Re-Sisters’ book and a Delia film soundtrack in the shops, plus an intriguing biopic on the way, the fearless electronic disruptor continues to push the envelope

I’m having elevenses with Cosey Fanni Tutti at her kitchen table. We’re a stone’s throw from the historic market town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk – although admittedly a big one, across several miles of fields – and I’m here to discuss a book, a soundtrack and a film, each of which is related to the other in various surprising and fascinating ways.

As Chris Carter busies himself on tea and coffee duty, our conversation turns to how everything seems to have slotted nicely into place for Cosey since the publication of her ‘Art Sex Music’ autobiography in 2017.

“We feel very, very lucky,” she declares. “It’s because of the book, and everything that’s happened since, that we could say, ‘OK, no more live shows’.”

Unbelievably, Cosey turned 70 last year. Chris will catch her up in January. While both of them look in fine fettle, they say they have felt the need to slow down a little for a while.

“We came back from a gig one time and we were so tired that we put the bags by the sofa and both literally crawled up the stairs to go to bed,” remembers Cosey. “That’s not good.”

It seems that ‘Art Sex Music’ was the catalyst for change, although her expectations for her first foray into publishing were not that high.

“I decided to write my autobiography because I had been asked to do it no end of times,” she says. “But I didn’t expect a publisher to take it up and I certainly didn’t expect it to sell. I was just pleased to get it out there. Once it was done, I could pack it all away.”

It was an opportunity to tell her story, reclaim the narrative, tick “write memoir” off the list, and move on. But the book had other ideas. It was brilliantly received, catapulting her into the limelight and onto a promotional book tour that took her away from home for long periods.

“There is a disconnect when you’re away a lot,” she says. “I’d come back and do the garden, but it didn’t really feel like my garden because I’d been away for so long. I needed to connect with home again and the pandemic provided that opportunity. It gave Chris and I the time to assess what we were doing. Did we want to play live or did we want to work in the studio? It’s cause and effect, isn’t it? You can’t do the gigs without the material, but the material was mainly looking backwards and we wanted to move forwards.”

While the couple didn’t rule out “a few solo engagements”, they decided they would no longer perform as Carter Tutti or as Carter Tutti Void, their side project with Nik Colk Void from Factory Floor. Chris & Cosey had already been decommissioned, playing their live swan song at the Subliminal Impulse festival in Manchester in 2019.

“That was sad,” notes Cosey. “It took me a while to come to terms with it, but as much as we love the live work, I know we can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t stop, though, just because we’re no longer performing. Not at all.”

It really doesn’t. And while they might be stepping back, any notion of retirement is swiftly dealt with.
“Someone said to me recently, ‘Are you retiring?’,” recounts Cosey, the indignation prickling in her voice.

“From what? You don’t retire when you’re creative. You can’t. It’s who you are. You carry on. And I think I’d be so bored. What would I do, join a bowls club?”

She could join a bowls club now if she wanted to, I offer.

“Exactly,” she says. “It doesn’t make any difference. You can go and do those things as well.”

So she’ll be joining the local bowls club, then?

“No.”


The publication of her autobiography kicked the interest in Cosey up several notches. ‘Art Sex Music’ was such a frank and vivid account of her life that it compounded the admiration of those already familiar with her, as well as attracting a whole new audience. As The Guardian review neatly put it, “Forever accustomed to life as an outsider, Tutti has never sought approval, but now it’s here whether she likes it or not”.

Cosey’s follow-up book holds equal appeal. ‘Re-Sisters: The Lives And Recordings Of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe And Cosey Fanni Tutti’ features more autobiographical material and also embraces two other remarkable women. Delia Derbyshire needs no introduction on these pages, but Margery Kempe most likely does. Rather than some undiscovered electronic pioneer, Margery was a 15th century mystic visionary and ‘Re-Sisters’ lifts the lid, through some very thorough research, on the many connections that link the lives of these three trailblazing women across 600 years.

The coincidences and meetings of minds that spiralled out from the success of Cosey’s ‘Art Sex Music’ are a delight. The story has the air of a magician distracting their audience to pull off some audacious sleight of hand. While people were getting excited about ‘Art Sex Music’ over there, three other projects were about to burst into life over here. Fittingly, it starts back in Cosey’s home city of Hull with COUM Transmissions, the performance art group that spawned Throbbing Gristle.

“I was asked to do a COUM Transmissions retrospective for the Hull City Of Culture festival in 2017,” she explains. “Chris and I had been working on some sound pieces, some harmonic actions, where we’d make recordings and create music around the actual places we were playing. So I thought I would put together a COUM harmonic collection, a film with images from my childhood and samples from COUM for the soundtrack. It was very Hull-centric.”

The work was called ‘Harmonic COUMaction’ and Cosey performed the soundtrack live at the Hull festival. Later on in 2017, she staged a solo exhibition at the Cabinet Gallery in Vauxhall, south London, and the film resurfaced as an audio-visual installation in the basement.

“You got to the basement in a lift and the sound became louder and louder as you were travelling down,” recalls Cosey of the set-up. “When the lift doors opened, you got an intense blast of sound and visuals, with all the images bleeding in and out of each other. There were buildings that looked as though they were melting and crumbling. It was almost like watching this world that I had created fall apart. It was a full-body kind of experience.”

Among the visitors to the exhibition was the actor Caroline Catz. She went twice, in fact. Instantly recognisable as “her off the telly”, Caroline has had numerous starring roles in UK prime time TV cop shows such as ‘The Bill’, ‘DCI Banks’, ‘The Vice’ and ‘Murder In Suburbia’, but she’s perhaps best known for the comedy drama ‘Doc Martin’. Of course, we know her as an obsessive electronic music buff who, when looking for someone to soundtrack ‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes’, her film about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop legend, had Cosey in her sights. But why Cosey?

“I’ve never asked her,” says Cosey, sounding surprised at the question.

Ah, but we have.

“I was in the basement of the Cabinet Gallery, listening to the soundtrack and watching the film, and it reminded me of that feeling I had as a child, listening to ‘Doctor Who’,” Caroline told Electronic Sound in early 2021, when she spoke to Matt Parker about her Delia film. “There was something really primal and fascinating about this sound – you can’t really understand where it’s come from, but you become emotionally attached to it. It was at that moment I thought, ‘That’s the feeling I want for this film I’m going to make about Delia’. So I was having this fantasy, sitting there thinking, ‘God, can you imagine if Cosey would do it?’.”

Without even realising it, Cosey had tapped directly into Caroline’s thinking. It was a collaboration waiting to happen. Around the same time, Cosey and Chris were set to take part in an onstage live chat with Mute boss Daniel Miller at the Rough Trade East record shop in London, to mark the 40th anniversary reissue of Throbbing Gristle’s ‘The Second Annual Report’. Wasting no time at all, Caroline was in the audience along with a friend who knew Cosey. A plan was afoot. 

Did Cosey know who Caroline was?

“I saw her in the room that night and I was like, ‘I know who you are’,” says Cosey. “We used to watch ‘Doc Martin’ and I’d seen her in a couple of other things on TV. I really liked her. I liked her face and she has a nice vibe. And it’s multiplied by a thousand when you meet her.”

Back at Rough Trade East, the pair were introduced. Caroline outlined the plan for her film about Delia and asked Cosey if she would be interested in getting involved with the soundtrack.

“I was really excited by it,” smiles Cosey. “I think I fed off Caroline’s enthusiasm. She had no doubt at all that I was going to do it. And that just made me think, ‘Well, of course I’ll do it’.”


As the book’s title suggests, ‘Re-Sisters: The Lives And Recordings Of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe And Cosey Fanni Tutti’ documents three women consumed by their passion for life, expressed through music, art and devotion. It was while Cosey and Caroline were beginning to tune in to Delia that the early Christian mystic Margery Kempe pitched up. It seems wild that she revealed herself when she did. But magic is magic.

This part of the story begins with the converted school near King’s Lynn that Cosey and Chris call home.

“We’ve lived here for nearly 40 years,” Cosey tells me. “We always wanted to live in the country. Even back in the TG days, we talked about getting an old school or a church, doing it up, and everybody living there. So when Chris and I had our son Nick, we knew we had to get him out of London before he went to nursery. We wanted somewhere quiet. We didn’t want him to be streetwise by the age of four.”

The family were living in Tottenham – which Cosey describes as “pretty heavy going” – prior to moving to Norfolk in 1985. A few weeks after they had left London, the Broadwater Farm riots kicked off down the road from their old place. But why Norfolk? What was the attraction?

“I think it goes back to when I first met Chris,” says Cosey. “One of his friends’ sisters was looking at houses in Dalton’s Weekly one day and she said, ‘Norfolk’s great’. I think that idea stuck with me. We found this place when I picked up the local paper and there it was.”

Fast-forward a few decades and Cosey gradually started to become aware of the name Margery Kempe, who had lived in King’s Lynn in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

“I’d seen her name around, but I had never actually thought about who she was,” says Cosey. “There are quite a few charity shops in the town, which is where I found her book. I thought, ‘I’ve heard of her’. But then when I saw she was a mystic and a visionary, I thought, ‘I’ve got to read this’. I just fell in love with her whole story.”

It’s easy to see why. The life of this medieval wife, mother, businesswoman, pilgrim and visionary is detailed in ‘The Book Of Margery Kempe’, which happens to be the earliest surviving English language autobiography. That’s pretty remarkable in itself, but all the more so because she was a woman.

Born into a well-heeled family in around 1373, Margery was married at 20 and claims she had a vision of Christ during the birth of her first child. She continued to have visions and hear voices for the next two decades, during which time she gave birth to a further 13 children. She also somehow found time to buy and run a mill and a brewery. It was only at the age of 40 that she followed what she saw as her calling – a chaste life and several epic pilgrimages.

“After I had found her book, I went to a talk about Margery in King’s Lynn,” says Cosey. “It was given by two historians, Anthony Bale and Susan Maddock, and they were such a big help to me when I was writing about her. As I was interpreting her life, I’d go to them and ask them if I was going in the right direction thinking this or that about Margery. It was really rewarding, because I seemed to be getting it right.”

At one point in ‘Re-Sisters’, Cosey describes how she was taking questions from the audience at a book signing for ‘Art Sex Music’ when a man asked if she had written the autobiography herself. A collective groan was heard around the room. The question isn’t quite so simple in Margery’s case, though.

“In my mind, Margery ‘wrote’ her book… although she didn’t physically write it herself,” explains Cosey. “I discovered from Anthony that reading and writing, as we do it today, didn’t go in parallel then. You could be taught to read, but it was a totally different skill to writing. That helped me understand Margery better. Other than doing her domestic books, why would she need to write?”

Especially when writing, as in being a scribe, was a whole other job.

“No one is quite sure who she used for her book,” adds Cosey. “There was a lot of protection going on, some of it because of her being accused of heresy, but also because of the social and cultural restrictions she was under as a woman. But scribes tended to be clerics, so having a holy man on her side gave her book authority.”

‘The Book Of Margery Kempe’ features some rather hairy tales about her fleeing from mobs who were ready and willing to burn her on the spot.

“Some people recognised her as a special person, as a holy person,” says Cosey. “She certainly stood out and wasn’t going to do what she was told. She was clever and she knew The Bible well enough to be able to talk her way out of being torched.”

Margery was quite clearly something of a divisive figure, not least because her devotion was expressed through extensive weeping and wailing, all of it very loud. Her bizarre behaviour landed her in hot water on more than one occasion. And yet she persisted. You can see why Cosey was intrigued by her.

“I love the fact that this woman was born up the road from here and travelled thousands of miles on pilgrimages, doing all of these amazing things for a woman of that time,” she says. “It’s incredible.”

It’s pretty odd that Margery survived childbirth so many times but her children aren’t mentioned in her book, isn’t it?

“Women spat kids out all the time,” counters Cosey. “That was their role, so it wasn’t important for her to write about it. What was important for her to write about was her piety – her love of God and Jesus.”
Does Cosey have faith?

“I have faith in people,” she replies. “But it’s a funny thing to define, isn’t it? I like the idea of it. I just don’t like it when it’s manipulated to control people. I’m not religious at all and I don’t agree with the indoctrination surrounding religion, but that’s what life was like in Margery’s day. Everything went through God. That’s how they lived.”

Margery embarked on the first of her pilgrimages in 1413. Over the next 20 years or so, she travelled not only throughout England, but to Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. And not an EasyJet flight in sight.

“She’d get a boat across to wherever and then travel by land,” notes Cosey. “To get to Jerusalem, she went over the Alps. She went over the Alps! It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?”

There’s a movie there, surely?

“Someone needs to make it,” agrees Cosey. “That would be truly amazing.”


Around the same time as her solo show at the Cabinet Gallery, yet another avenue was opening up for Cosey. A film director called Andrew Hulme had been in touch with her, expressing his interest in making a biopic based on ‘Art Sex Music’. He emailed her directly, introducing himself and mentioning that their paths had crossed some years before at an ambient music festival at Melkweg in Amsterdam. Andrew was there with his band O Yuki Conjugate. “That was a relief… he wasn’t ‘Hollywood’, more arthouse,” writes Cosey in ‘Re-Sisters’.

A deal was struck and the film adaption of ‘Art Sex Music’ is currently in pre-production. It must be a bit disconcerting when someone tells you they’d like to make a movie about your life?

“It was strange,” admits Cosey. “I never thought I’d get an offer like that. When I found out who Andrew was and realised there was that connection of music and us being in the same place at the same time years ago, that’s what cemented it for me. I thought, ‘Well, how could you not do a film with someone who has a similar approach to music and life?’.”

It’s coincidental, or perhaps it’s magic again, but at that time Cosey was about to appear on the silver screen playing herself. Caroline Catz had hit upon the idea that Cosey should feature alongside Delia in ‘The Myths And The Legendary Tapes’. They would be kind of ghosts to each other – Caroline in the role of Delia in her Radiophonic Workshop prime in the 1960s and Cosey searching for Delia’s spirit in the present day.

“When Caroline first spoke to me about it, I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t want to spoil your film’,” notes Cosey. “She said because I was doing the soundtrack in the present, and because of all the women who have been influenced by Delia or myself, it would make sense that there was Delia and then there was me representing the here and now. So that’s what happened. I was in her film.”

When it comes to the ‘Art Sex Music’ biopic, someone else will be taking the part of Cosey. “Who would play you in a film about your life?” is a classic question and that thought crossed Cosey’s mind straight away. So who did she have lined up?

“In my own head, I was being very ambitious. I thought, ‘Oh, I would love…”

And then she catches herself. The movie is very much still under wraps, with everyone involved being careful about what they do and don’t say.

“No, I can’t tell you.”

Go on, who were you thinking of?

“I think the first actor I saw who could possibly do it…” she begins, before pausing again. “No, no, I won’t say who it was. But Cosey is cast now anyway. We’ve got the actor and she’s absolutely brilliant.”

Nice distraction. So who is going to play you?

“All I can say is she’s well-known and she’s brilliant.”

Who plays Chris? 

“We’ve not got that far yet.”

Curses.

“But we’ve watched the casting tapes together and given feedback on them.”

That must have been weird.

“It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. I thought I’d be projecting myself into it more. They had to do a very emotional scene and they all did it well. Really well.”

How do you feel about a film of your life? I guess it’s all out there anyway?

“It’s different because I’ve chosen what to write and they are my words,” she muses. “The film is something else. It’s someone else’s interpretation of my story. It’s a bit like when you collaborate on a track. You want to take things in a certain direction, but then someone else suggests something and you think, ‘Yeah, OK’. And then it becomes what it’s meant to be because it’s not just yours.”


Knowing what we know now, and having watched as her status and importance has grown over the years since her death in 2001, it’s hard to understand quite how anonymous Delia Derbyshire was in the eyes – and ears – of BBC viewers and listeners. Was Cosey aware of Delia when she was starting out on her own creative journey back in Hull?

“I wasn’t really aware of her until I met Chris,” she admits. “Before then, I was on a totally different wavelength with music. I was into heavy stuff and bands like The Velvet Underground. We did an electronic festival with COUM, but I wasn’t especially into electronic music. The other thing was the Radiophonic Workshop were working for radio and TV, but I never watched TV when I was younger.”

These days, we have a tendency to idealise Delia, but she wasn’t the only female electronic music pioneer. She wasn’t even the only one at the Workshop.

“I think we do glamourise her, but that’s one of the reasons why I wrote ‘Re-Sisters’,” notes Cosey. “I want everyone to understand the personal side of her and what she went through to do what she did. I want them to know how it was her drive to create music and her love of it that kept her going so long. To think she was possibly bipolar – which could explain a lot of her mood swings – on top of being a woman and dealing with the usual things we have to put up with in all situations, let alone working in studios…”

But why not focus on, say, Daphne Oram?

“I did actually write a long piece about Daphne for the book,” says Cosey. “But it was so long, you couldn’t get back to Delia or Margery or me by the time you’d finished reading it! I got completely into Daphne and wrote about 10,000 words about her. I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to take this to the end’, because I loved the way her life unfolded.”

A story for another time, then.

A thought that has occurred to Cosey, which she mentions in ‘Re-Sisters’, is that she and Delia were hoovering around the same parts of London in the mid-1970s. By the time Throbbing Gristle were making waves, Delia had left the Radiophonic Workshop and was working with video artists Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas, who drafted her in as the composer for Anthony Roland’s short film, ‘Circle Of Light: The Photography Of Pamela Bone’.

“But we never met,” says Cosey. “There were these different strands of the avant-garde… and she was with one kind, while I was with the other. If only one of the people she worked with or met had known us and piqued her curiosity…”

They probably came tantalisingly close, though. When Delia was working at Elsa Stansfield’s studio in Neal’s Yard, Cosey was involved with the Art Meeting Place, a creative collective based a few streets away in Covent Garden.

“Funny to think of us possibly passing by each other, both preoccupied with our thoughts on our projects, heading to our workspaces,” notes Cosey in ‘Re-Sisters’.

What does she think Delia would have made of TG?

“I think she’d have been excited by us,” she offers. “What TG did was free of all the things that she did with her rules and systems. That was all thrown out with us. We didn’t have a rulebook. Still don’t.”


The soundtrack for ‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes’ was all about capturing the essence of Delia. Cosey was particularly keen to use Delia’s voice on some of the tracks.

“I sampled her voice from interviews she did with a journalist called John Cavanagh,” says Cosey. “John very kindly let me use them, so I had her voice on a strip of quarter-inch tape. I ran a tape head along it, giving me tiny pieces of Delia which I then manipulated and used in various ways for different scenes in the film.”

Other than snippets of her voice, the rest of the soundtrack consists of entirely original sounds. There are no samples of Delia’s music, which was important to Cosey.

“I knew Delia was precious about her work and I didn’t feel comfortable remixing it,’ she says. “So I took inspiration from her handwritten notes and her references to sound instead. By doing that and using her actual voice to create new sounds, the end result was like a composite of the two of us.”

Caroline Catz helped the soundtrack along with suggestions of her own. Interestingly, the process was similar to the way that Delia utilised Ron Grainer’s scribbled notes – “swoops”, “sweeps”, “wind cloud”, “wind bubble” – to begin work on her ‘Doctor Who’ theme.

“Caroline was quite specific because these sounds had to represent images as well as emotions at certain points in the film,” explains Cosey. “The visuals weren’t done at the time, though, so I had to come up with sounds that I thought would work with the images she had in her mind.”

Some of the descriptions Caroline came up with were so good, they became track titles.

“She had ‘Ceiling Of Sickening Sound’ to describe how Delia felt being put down by men. I knew straight away what that sounded like.”

Titles such as ‘Delia Tones’, ‘Corridor’ and ‘Snuff Chorus’ are perhaps obvious references, but some of the others require more explanation.

“‘Four Bebe’ is a little nod to Bebe Barron,” expands Cosey. “I wanted to flag up Bebe’s huge contribution and that track put me in mind of her work. With ‘Cosmic Static Noise Wasps’, that is an amalgamation of three pieces I had for different scenes. I used my Synthi to generate the wasp sounds and also recorded a wasp nest that was under the eaves of our house.”

Several of the tracks started out using Delia’s original VCS 3 patch sheets, so it was her formula and Cosey’s sounds. With analogue synths being what they are, Cosey wasn’t able to get an identical match, but it worked well as a jumping-off point. It was also essential that Cosey’s equipment list was close to what Delia would have had access to. As well as an EMS Synthi A, her arsenal included her cornet, a guitar, a bunch of guitar pedals – among them a Space Echo – and period oscillators.

“I intentionally mainly had hardware rather than software versions of what Delia used,” she explains. “I used the Synthi A a lot, controlled by a Stylophone Gen-R8, and Chris put a small Eurorack case together for me that had a filter, oscilloscope and noise generator. There was the wonderful Nagra portable tape recorder as well, of course.”

The Nagra reel-to-reel was a staple machine in the television industry for decades. The one that landed up with Cosey came complete with its BBC identity plate.

“A Nagra had long been on our wish list and serendipitously one turned up right on time,” she says. “I adored working with it, even though it has its quirks. I’d make recordings via a mic and create tape loops that were cut and spliced and played into Ableton Live, then bounced back into the Nagra. We used it on set as playback for certain scenes too.”

Cosey and Caroline also had full access to Delia’s archive, which is based at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. The pair spent a good deal of time there, with their headphones on and notebooks at the ready, listening intently and exchanging excited glances. They wanted to immerse themselves in Delia, both the musician and the person. And the more they dug, the more involved they became.

While Delia didn’t get round to penning an autobiography, there’s certainly been no shortage of words written about her, many of them in reverential academic tomes which, while celebrating her musical achievements, do little to reveal her character. Over the years, I have read countless articles about Delia and her work, and I have to say that Cosey’s new book is the closest anyone has come to painting a picture of her as a person. Warts and all.

“Well, I hope I’ve done her justice,” says Cosey. “I didn’t want to portray her as a saint, because she wasn’t. None of us are. Sometimes she found it difficult to work with some people and sometimes it was the other way around. She’d have these mood swings until the end. Even with her partner, Clive Blackburn. He was with her during her post-BBC years, so talking to him about that was really interesting. He knew the true Delia. She didn’t have to be anyone when she was with him. He understood that and gave her space.”

Quite literally, it seems. Being Delia’s partner came with its own set of idiosyncrasies. When she relocated to Northampton, she bought a two-bedroom terraced house near the town centre which she shared with Clive. Cosey describes it as a “nest of chaos”. Soon enough, Clive found himself moving out and buying his own place around the corner.

“But they remained a couple,” notes Cosey. “I’d say that was faith. If you want to know what faith is, it’s believing in someone enough to give them space. Clive knew what would make Delia happy and that’s why he did that. You’ve fallen in love with them for who they are… so why would you change them?”

There are also stories about Delia in ‘Re-Sisters’ that I’d not heard before.

“I’m glad to hear that,” says Cosey. “At one point I thought, ‘Am I just repeating what everyone else has written about?’. But I wanted the full story. I didn’t want to leave things out.”

Did she enjoy the writing process?

“I loved it,” she beams. “I got to the point where I was so into the research that I thought, ‘Right, what I have to do is research Delia alone, then go on to Margery, then when I get to the parts that connect with me I’ll have to get a board’. You know those boards they have for crimes? Where they connect everything up with ribbons? It was like that.

“I was fascinated by everything. I’d go off down these rabbit holes. I kept thinking, ‘This isn’t relevant, but it’s interesting’. And then you’d find somebody who connected with something in Delia’s life or in Margery’s life and you’d think, ‘Well, how did she meet them?’, and off you’d go again. It was amazing to work out.”

Which is exactly how ‘Re-Sisters’ comes across. And it’s against this backdrop – of extensive research and delving into all corners of her life – that Cosey and Caroline felt such a deep connection with Delia.

“We both had this feeling she was there with us throughout the whole project,” says Cosey. “We were constantly referring to her, so she naturally became part of what we were doing. There were three of us involved, not two of us… which I loved. And from that, this new book came out. Not a memoir as such, but three memoirs of three women who have experienced very similar things in similar situations across time.”


It’s a week since elevenses round Cosey’s and I’m at the book launch for ‘Re-Sisters’. The choice of venue for tonight’s event isn’t lost on those who know their Cosey Fanni Tutti. Welcome to the ICA in London.

While she has been back here many times since, this was where COUM Transmissions staged their ‘Prostitution’ exhibition in October 1976. The opening night marked the debut of Throbbing Gristle, which has long been forgotten in the press uproar that followed what The Daily Express called “Cosey’s travelling sex troupe”.

Things are more sedate tonight. Cosey is in conversation with the actor Maxine Peake, who she initially met around the publication of ‘Art Sex Music’ when they recorded an episode of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Only Artists’ series together. They’d got on famously from the off.

There’s a section in ‘Re-Sisters’ that jumped out at me the first time I read it and has stayed with me ever since. In June 2018, Cosey appeared at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, for a gathering much like tonight’s, except she was in conversation with the BBC Radio 3 presenter Elizabeth Alker. Her new pal Maxine was there too, along with a raft of friends from film, TV and theatre. “All such down-to-earth, fun people,” writes Cosey in the book. “No artsy-fartsy pretentiousness.”

This strikes me as a significant moment in Cosey’s story. Intriguingly, it’s mentioned in ‘Re-Sisters’ alongside an account of the final live outing for Chris & Cosey at Subliminal Impulse. While the gig marked an ending, the Hebden Bridge event appeared to represent a new beginning.

That quote from The Guardian’s review of ‘Art Sex Music’ pops into my head again, the one about Cosey being an outsider who has never sought approval “but now it’s here whether she likes it or not”. These strong, talented and empowered women forming a circle around her seemed to be just what she needed.

Also in attendance at Hebden Bridge was film director Carol Morley, who is best known for her 2011 drama-documentary ‘Dreams Of A Life’ and whose presence Cosey remembers being proclaimed by somebody cheerily shouting, “Oh look, it’s only Carol fucking Morley!”. Comedian Lucy Beaumont was there too. Like Cosey, she also hails from Hull. At the end of the night, Lucy had revealed to Cosey that they’re connected.

Her godmother is Cosey’s Aunt Margaret.

“It’s nuts, isn’t it?” chuckles Cosey when I ask her about it.

Did Hebden Bridge feel like the start of something?

“Absolutely,” she confirms. “It was like having your batteries charged. Those sort of women are like this ball of energy. It was wonderful. I’d not been among women like that for a long time and I’d really, really missed it.”

Why does she think it left her feeling so rejuvenated?

“I don’t ever expect to meet with people that I can connect with immediately, or people who know enough about me that we don’t have to access the whole ‘What do you do?’ conversation. Over the years, when people ask, ‘What do you do?’, I always think, ‘Oh my god, what do I say?’.”

What do you say?

“What do I say?,” she replies, rolling her eyes. “If I tell them I make music, they say, ‘Oh, what are you called?’, followed by, ‘Never heard of you’. Immediate dismissal, you know.”

Do you get asked that a lot in your day-to-day life?

“We’ve never discussed it with the neighbours,” she says.

Her response recalls a passage from ‘Art Sex Music’, as she recounts taking her young son to a toddler group in the village hall during the family’s early days in Norfolk. “I didn’t have a lot in common with the other mothers,” she deadpans.

“My friend who lived down the road – she’s passed on now, sadly – she knew all about us,” adds Cosey. “She was amazing. In fact, she was the subject of my thesis.”

A thesis?

“I did a Women’s Studies course with The Open University,” she reveals. “I never thought I would do it, but I was so pleased I did. It was when I first got my heart complaint, in around 1990. We couldn’t do gigs or anything at the time. An OU advert came on the telly and Chris said, ‘Why don’t you do a degree?’. And I said [splutters with laughter]… but I did.”

I can imagine Cosey doing well in academia. Talking to her, poking around in her thoughts, reading her books, she has much to offer. Has she ever thought about being Dr Cosey? Professor Fanni Tutti? She laughs like a drain.

“I don’t know. I never think about it.”

Does that not appeal to her? Being an academic?

“That tickles me,” she smiles. “It tickles me.”

After Cosey and Maxine’s entertaining chat at the ICA, the audience files out and forms an orderly queue to get their newly published copies of ‘Re-Sisters’ signed. I stand at the back of the room and watch as Cosey and Maxine embrace Caroline Catz and Carol “fucking” Morley, who had both been in the crowd tonight. Cosey signs Carol’s book with that very inscription. She is clearly in her element.

A little while later, a photo of Cosey, Caroline, Maxine and Carol appears on social media. It’s a life-affirming image. They seem to be such a tight-knit group and it’s brilliant to see these diverse creative forces enjoying each other’s company.

Funny how things work out. Funny how things start out.

The soundtrack to ‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes’ is out on Conspiracy International.

‘Re-Sisters: The Lives And Recordings Of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe And Cosey Fanni Tutti’ is published by Faber & Faber

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