Issue #166 / September 2021

Happy Red Hand File Anniversary! Three Years! How time flies when you are answering multiple questions at once. Keep on dispatching!


I’m a new subscriber and you’ve probably been asked and answered this question before – why did you start The Red Hand Files?



Dear Neill and Chantal,

I started The Files three years ago this week. I feel dizzy just saying that, and what I started, essentially on an intuition, has now become a fundamental part of my life.

Chantal, for a long time I’d wanted to explore the idea of some form of communication with my audience that sat outside of music. I felt I had things to share that didn’t fit within the normal confines of what I did artistically. I wasn’t at all sure what form that would take but it was a nagging thought that I carried with me. I was searching for something.

Then my son, Arthur, died and everything changed. People began to send letters to my home address, letters of condolence, of course, but many were letters from people that essentially said, “This happened to me. I know what you are going through.” It was clear that people were finding some sort of personal salvation by articulating their own particular story for somebody else to hear. It felt to me that they had run out of people who were prepared to listen. This idea had a profound impact on me — the remarkable curative power of the combined acts of telling and listening. In time, this would become the basic premise for The Red Hand Files.

You see, The Red Hand Files are not just about answering the enquiry, they are first and foremost about listening to the question. I get about fifty to a hundred letters a day and part of my commitment to the project is to read each question carefully, and be alert to what each person is trying to say.

This practice of reading the questions is, in its way, a form of prayer, because prayer is primarily about listening. It allows the necessary space to experience the subtle intimations of the divine, and to acknowledge God’s divine need — what is required of us. In the questions that come into The Red Hand Files I feel this same want echoed in my own need, the speaking of one’s pain into the pain of another, the toing and froing of our mutual desire for simple affirmation. So, here I am, and there you are, and happy third birthday to us all.

Love Nick


Ask a Question