The Dead Rat Orchestra brings its acclaimed live film score to James Holcombe’s film Tyburnia to HEART in Headingley on 14th July.

It will be joined by singer Lisa Knapp, and Holcombe, who will perform the film live. Using multiple projectors and screens, locally sourced footage and stories, he will create a new ‘Directors Cut’ at each location – which will be staged as close to a place of execution as possible.

Shot on 8mm and 16mm film Tyburnia is both visually and thematically engrossing, demonstrating how, despite the gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of its punitive ideology.


For over 700 years there was a site of execution at Tyburn in London. Those who fell foul of political, religious and judicial reforms were executed for public entertainment and instruction. These executions chart a history illustrating the twists and turns of monarchical and political whimsy, church and state, and the birth of capitalism. In the current climate of enforced austerity and social reform, Tyburnia explores the parallels between contemporary and historical notions of crime in relation to business and property, the spectacular nature of punishment, and the state’s use of the body as a site for political control.

Dead Rat Orchestra has created an evocative soundtrack using peculiar and rare folk songs. With its gritty, rough hewn interpretations and dextrous multi-instrumentalism, the three-piece performs songs composed by, or for, those condemned to ‘dance the Tyburn jig’. Many of these broadside ballads have become a staple of folk music, but here their power and resonance can be appreciated in a new light. DRO has also crafted contemporary versions of long forgotten songs in the luridly descriptive ‘thieves cant’ (a secret language used by thieves, beggars and hustlers of various disciplines).

Lisa Knapp

“Tyburnia is one of the most challenging and important projects we have undertaken”, said DRO’s Daniel Merrill. “We’ve been working on it for three years, and it keeps getting more intense. The addition of Lisa’s voice opens up new avenues of song, enabling us to really do justice to James’ extraordinary film.”

The band releases a special edition of its score featuring the original album packaged with new text and cuttings of the film stock used in the creation of Tyburnia (Antigen Records) on 13th July.

See a short sample video of Tyburnia from the Spill Festival is available here

Tickets from HEART (£10) on 0113 275 4548,      





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