Oxford folk pop quartet Stornoway to play first ever gig in a nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 18:39 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 18:39 19 May 2015

Stornoway, from left, Oli Steadman, Brian Briggs, Rob Steadman and Jon Ouin, with a bonxie, the bird which their album is named after.

Stornoway, from left, Oli Steadman, Brian Briggs, Rob Steadman and Jon Ouin, with a bonxie, the bird which their album is named after.


There have been many strange gig locations since The Beatles played on the roof of Apple Records in 1969.

Stornoway perform at the Isle of Wight Festival. Stornoway perform at the Isle of Wight Festival.

Bands have played on the tube, in picket lines and even 300 metres below the North Sea on an oil rig, however Oxford quartet Stornoway are going to be the first band ever to perform in a bird reserve.

At least that’s what they’re telling everyone.

“I have never heard of another one,” says keyboardist Jon Ouin. “That’s what we have been saying so hopefully it’s not a lie.”

The folk-pop band are playing an acoustic set in association with the RSPB at Rainham Marshes on Sunday May 31.

This gig certainly fits with Stornoway’s latest album called Bonxie after a large seabird, the great skua.

The concept stemmed from lead singer Brian Briggs, who has a PhD in ornithology, the study of birds, from the University of Oxford.

Jon explained: “The whole theme of the record from the artwork to the music is about birds and Brian’s wanted to do a gig like this for a while.

Altogether 20 different species of birds make an appearance on the album.

Jon continued: “The idea came when we were on tour a couple of years ago.

“We were talking about bird sounds as something we could put on in between acts to make the audience feel as if they were outside.”

The theme then grew organically into the lyrics.

The band crowd funded the album through the website PledgeMusic.

If you pledged money Brian would take you bird watching or the band would take you zorbing.

Jon said: “The bird watching was something Brian really knows his onions on, so I went along so I could ask a few tough questions to keep him on his toes.”

Jon and Brian started Stornoway in 2006 when they met in freshers week at the University of Oxford.

Jon was studying postgraduate russian and Brian doing his PhD in ornithology and they hit it off straight away.

They advertised for a bassist and recruited Oli Steadman and his younger brother Rob joined on drums.

Although Jon explained it all could have been very different at that first rehearsal.

“Oli brought a screw driver with him in his bag the first time we met in case we were murderers.

“He only told us a few years later, I think if he’d told us at the time we would’ve thought he was a murderer and kicked him out.”

The band’s name has caused confusion in the past, given the quartet are from Oxford yet named after a Scottish town on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis.

Jon explained: “We chose the most wild and far away place we could think of, when in fact we lived in Oxford which is far far away from the sea.”

He added: “The wilderness is mainly Brian’s thing.” What is your thing then? Jon replied deadpan: “I just like being shut in the dark.”

The band visited Stornoway for the first time to sign their first record deal.

“It was a bit strange,” Jon explained, “if you lived in a place and some guys showed up who had just appropriated your name you might be a bit pissed off.”

How did you go down? “Well most of them had never heard of us anyway,” Jon said, “and we bribed them with whiskey.”

Stornoway are playing at Rainham Marshes RSPB Nature Reserve, in New Tank Hill Road, Purfleet, on Sunday May 31 at 7pm.

Tickets are £15 with £2 going to the RSPB and there are only 9 left. Visit

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