Breathing Space reach the end of the road.

Cambridge Rock Festival 2009, with Mostly Autumn’s Bryan Josh on guitar

A sad announcement today is that York progressive rock band Breathing Space are calling it a day.  As said on their official website:

After a lot of thought and deliberation, we are sorry to announce that Breathing Space has decided to disband.

We would like to thank everyone that has supported us over the last few years. It has been an exciting and wonderful journey and we have all enjoyed every moment. Whereas I am very sad that this project has come to an end, as one door closes another door opens, so watch this space…

All the best,
Iain Jennings

Iain Jennings, The Riga, Southend, March 2010

For those of you who aren’t regular readers of this blog, Breathing Space are the band Mostly Autumn keyboardist Iain Jennings and vocalist Olivia Sparnenn put together to promote Iain’s 2005 solo album “Breathing Space”. After Iain left Mostly Autumn at the beginning of 2006, the project took on a life of it’s own and became a band in it’s own right. Like many bands at their level, they’ve been though a number of lineup changes over the years. Barry Cassells replaced original drummer, Iain’s brother Andy in 2007. There was the departure of guitarist Mark Rowen in 2009, and most significantly of all the departure of Olivia Sparnenn in 2010 to take up a new role as lead singer for Mostly Autumn. The final incarnation of the band featured Heidi Widdop on vocals, and Adam Dawson on guitar.

Olivia Sparnenn, 2009 Cambridge Rock Festival

I first became of fan of the band after I met Olivia after a Mostly Autumn gig in February 2007, and she personally invited me to their gig at The Roman Baths in York the following weekend.  At the time the band were without a permanent drummer, and Olivia’s father Howard was standing in; I remember him remarking to me that he didn’t want to occupy the drumstool on a permanent basis, since he thought having her dad on drums would rather cramp her style. That gig was plagued with severe technical gremlins, but I could see the potential there, and I thought Olivia Sparnenn was a real star in the making,  A month later I saw them play a superb set at the Mostly Autumn fan convention in Ringwood, Hampshire, and said to bassist Paul Teasdale that give them a couple of years they’d be giving Mostly Autumn a run for their money.  And I think I was right.

Paul Teasdale, The Riga, Southend, March 2010

Over the course of the following four years the band recorded two excellent studio albums, “Coming Up for Air” and “Below the Radar”, and played a great many memorable gigs. Among those that stick in the mind are the very emotional performance in Mansfield in May 2008, the stunning show at the Cambridge Rock Festival in 2009, and what appeared at the time to be a spectacular rebirth of the band with a brand new lineup at the same festival in 2010. Over the years their sound evolved, from the dominance of big soaring ballads and jazz-rock workouts in the Mark Rowen era, to the tougher hard rock orientated approach they took over the last couple of years.  Even after Olivia left the band they managed to reinvent themselves once more with new singer Heidi Widdop, and things looked set for another chapter in the story.

Mark Rowen, 2008 Cambridge Rock Festival

In terms of the number of their gigs I’ve attended, Breathing Space are second only to Mostly Autumn.  I’ve likened being a fan of a band at this level to being an away supporter of a lower-division football team.  It involves travelling to towns like Crewe, Mansfield or Southend, often staying in dodgy B&Bs when it’s not possible to arrange lifts home. But there’s a great camaraderie amongst fellow fans, many of whom have become friends, as have some of the band. It’s  quite different from being a fan of someone like Oasis. Part of being a loyal fan is you stick with them through the bad times as well as the good.  Yes, there were times when a cloth-eared house soundman from a toilet of a venue rendered their finely-crafted music all but unlistenable to a sparse crowd.  But there were times when they delivered mesmerising performances to appreciative audiences, or went down a storm at festivals.  Sadly they were a band who I always felt deserved far more success than they ever achieved; they were worth far more than playing for sixty people in working-mens clubs in the East Midlands.

Heidi Widdop at the 2010 Cambridge Rock Festival

At the time of writing, nobody from the band has given any specific reason for the split, and since I know some of the band personally I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speculate about it on a public forum. So here’s to the past four years. Let’s remember the good times, and I hope to see all the band involved in exciting new projects over the coming months and years. There may not be any more chapters in the Breathing Space story, but I hope for and expect at a sequel.

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19 Responses to Breathing Space reach the end of the road.

  1. Andy Goodall says:

    Well said that man – you’ve encapsulated nearly all of thoughts too

  2. whitty says:

    nice one tim.
    very sad indeed. like a poster on facebook. i,m confused. the band wished everybody happy new year, and said there are exciting things coming up. new gigs and plans for the future. what happened?
    what a shame

  3. Tim Hall says:


    No idea what happened – I have some ideas, but I don’t really want to start posting speculation on a public site.

  4. John Finnigan says:

    Hacked off about this big style! Spent a shed load travelling to see this band and on their cd’s oh and a t-shirt and now they dump this on us without any sort of explanation? Happy New Year it said last week! It’s obvious the new lineup can’t hack it together and let’s face it, the band died when Livvy quit, no actually it’s been in it’s death throws since Mark quit. Heidi was never the right choice and the band lost it’s way. Just as well it’s over I guess.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    Bit harsh there, John. They did some great gigs after Mark left, and “Below the Radar” was every bit as good an album as “Coming Up for Air”.

    They were a quite different band with Heidi, and that lineup never quite had time to gell. I expect a new band to rise from the ashes; one or two people have been dropping heavy hints.

  6. Michaela says:

    A very nice blog, Tim. I agree that John was very harsh, as the band had come into its own since Mark left and equally were successfully finding their feet since Olivia left too. I may open up a big debate here and that is not my intention, but speculating about what might have happened, if anything, is not going to get anyone anywhere. It is private and between them, surely, and does it really matter or change the outcome? They have ended on a high and that can only be a good thing. Let all of us loyal fans look forward instead and support them all in whatever their future endeavours may be. I am sure they will all appreciate that far more than us speculating and guessing. They deserve better from us.

  7. whitty says:

    every one is entitled to their opinion but i think john f is out of order.
    livvy had big shoes to fill i agree. but when heidi joined the band i think it was a good thing. the reason being it put everybody bacl on a level footing. plus she has an awesome voice.
    i think livvy had probably outgrown breathing space and needed a bigger stage.
    its a pity that the reminig members could not move forward together. i have my own ideas of why this might be, and like tim would not want to share these on a public forum
    and having read heidi’s facebook updates she feels bad enough as it is that people would blame her for the bands demise without saying the band died when livvy quit. i.m hacked off that you could suggest this

  8. Heidi says:

    Mr Finnigan,

    Perhaps for you the band died when Livvy left but for the majority of people who came to see the last three performances it was well worth it and the majority, including the band members themselves were excited about the future. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about and your above comments are rather disrespectful to the longer term members of the band. As for your comment that the new line up couldnt hack it together you will shortly be proven wrong. There were some problems within the band that reared their head only a day after I wrote Happy New Year on the band facebook page (I do not feel it is my place to write about this here) so therefore there will be one or two members off doing there own thing, but most of us are working hard on a splendid new project!

    Change happens, you just have to move with the times!


  9. Dave Cooper says:

    Well said, Heidi (and Whitty)!

    John F: The band don’t owe you an explanation. They make music, if you like it you buy it and/or turn up to the gigs – simples. Anything else is their business, not yours or mine. One of the most worrying things about bands doing business more directly with their fans is this misguided sense of “ownership” that some fans seem to develop. This is not – nor should it be – a two-way street.

  10. Patty says:

    Hoorah! Well said, dave!

  11. Tim Hall says:

    Strongly suspect our drive-by troll isn’t going to be back, and isn’t going to be reading any of the well-said responses.

    Never quite sure how I, as the owner of this site, ought to handle commenters like him. I don’t want to be labelled as an over-sensitive fan who can’t take criticism, but on the other hand it’s not right to let unfair or insensitive comments aimed at musicians I know personally go without some kind of response.

  12. Patty says:

    Like some other posters, i know a number of the band members personally. And as a close friend of one member I know the reasons behind the split. But you have to respect the band’s announcement… What good would it do anyone for them to list all the contributing factors which lead to their decision?
    The band have split up, but they have left us all with somd great albums and top mrmories. I am grateful to them all for that.

  13. Helen Davies says:

    Who on earth is this John Finnigan? Colin and I have missed very few BS gigs since their debut gig in July 2006. We also have spent rather an astonishing amount of money buying their merchandise and staying in B&Bs/Hotels etc. We wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s not always appropriate to announce why a band have split Mr Finnigan. But if you were a true fan, you would be upset rather than angry, and continue to follow and support them in any new project. Personally I felt that after Mark left and was replaced by first Liam and then BJ the band only got better. No disrespect to Mark at all, but BJ really rocked up some of the songs, especially QE. The band members and true fans don’t need someone like Mr Finnigan. If this is how he reacts and posts on a public forum without any thought of upsetting both band members and fans, then he can take a long walk off a short pier.

  14. Ian Redearn says:

    I have not been to see BS as many times as a few people on here but I will say that all times I saw them, they created a wonderful sound. Irrespective of the disappointment I feel in them splitting up it comes nowhere near the amount of pleasure they have provided me. When I bought the CDs and other merchandise, I never believed that I now owned them in some way. I did it for a number of reasons – 1. so that I could listen to the music I enjoyed 2. To support the band and hope that they could make more of the music I enjoyed.

    As a fan (this is my opinion)do not put in anything like what the members of the band put in. Yes I may buy the CDs (financial outlay), I may travel to gigs etc. (financial and time outlay) BUT the band put heart, soul, time, money, creativity at levels I could not imagine.

    The wonderful things to take from the existence of BS is their legacy in the CDs they mad, the gigs they did and the memories they left.

  15. Mark Rowen says:

    OK, it’s not the most succinct of posts is it. My name’s being dragged into it so please allow me a say if you would be so kind. Firstly, despite my leaving the band of my own accord and for my own reasons, I didn’t doubt for a second that Breathing Space would move forward. There’s no reason why such a talented bunch shouldn’t. There was BOUND to be a shift in direction, it was OBVIOUS, BJ and Liam are VERY different guitarists to me. The band lost some followers when I left just as they gained a load when Liam and subsequestly BJ joined – that is called evolution, it’s the natural order of things, and it’s great. Where would we be without change?

    I don’t believe the band ‘lost it’s way’ or ‘couldn’t hack it’ at all during and after the Below The Radar period, it was moving in a different direction, that’s all – y’see, there’s that evolution thing again.

    And so it was the same when Liv decided to leave and Heidi join. Two VERY different singers, two VERY different styles, each strong in their own right…. well it’d be bloody boring if all singers and guitarists sounded the same now wouldn’t it?

    The only shame here is that Heidi and Adam (and let’s not forget that Adam is an exceptional guitarist too) didn’t get a chance to record with ‘Breathing Space’ as such, but I’m sure, nay virtually certain that something good will come out of all this and we’ll get to hear some great stuff from these guys in the not too distant future – cor… there’s that evolution thing again.

  16. Tim Hall says:

    While I’m still gong to accept well-reasoned rebuttals to the silly troll, I’d rather people didn’t resort to crude name-calling, or worse still, threats of violence such as I’ve seen elsewhere.

    People should never forget that trolls all-too frequently encourage others to lower themselves to their level. Rise above it, folks.

  17. Iain Weetman says:

    Firstly, well said one & all in response to Mr F’s trollathon – “the band died when Livvy quit” – eh? Do wot?? Did you see the band with Adam & Heidi Mr F? It was a different tack soundwise but I loved it!
    OK, I was gutted that BS decided to call it a day but I thank them for the albums & gigs; I managed to see them with Mark, Livvy, Heidi & Adam (plus another chap at the MA convention – very good he was too!!). As Mark says, it’s an evolution thing – the members have done what they have to do. If a phoenix(s) rises from the flames then that’s great (afterall, Karnataka MK I gave us Panic Room, K MK II & The Reasoning).
    I’d just like to thank the band for the time they were around & it was great to meet them at various gigs etc.
    Thanks again guys & gals

  18. Peter The Great says:

    I echo Weetys Post. Even the bit where the phoenix rises from the flames and not the ashes LOL