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A bit of a recap…
29th January is a first for me… So I’m looking back over the events that led to it with more than a little wonderment and disbelief really, that it should have come about at all….
About half way through my MA (2010/11?) at BCU’s wonderful School of Art in Margaret St Birmingham, I decided for some reason lost in the mists of time, that my installation needed some sort of sound element… A backing track… A soundscape… Music…maybe a lullaby… Yes… A lullaby… In retrospect, actually, I showed too much work… I threw everything at it in the manner of an art student not at all confident in their work. I trawled the Internet for a lullaby, YouTube, soundcloud… Whatever… But could find nothing. I spoke to my friend Dan, who I had only really known then for about a year, and he said “you should write your own!”…. And so I did, and with his generous help, honed it, recorded it, and played it with the work. It was uncharted territory for me, but definitely added something…. Not quite sure what, but definitely added to the narrative of this family of work I displayed.
By the time the finals came around, I had written other things and decided to record another one with Dan, to accompany the work done with children’s clothes. The recording, again in retrospect, was a little overblown, as often happens when you have new toys to play with… But I loved it. The whole process of writing and recording songs, and I loved what it added to the work…. Even though I’m still not sure what that is!
In a conversation with my tutors, particularly Henry Rogers (who I think should get some sort of Art Higher Education medal), I was persuaded, if not bullied, into doing a live performance for my assessment. Now… We are talking cold sweat, brown trousers, stiff drink scenario… But I did it. I sat on my own, watched by three assessors, in the dark stairwell at Margaret St. I sat on the third step, accompanied myself with a stout pair of dressmaking shears, and sang my song. I then stood up, still snipping, and walked up the stairs and gradually out of hearing. I ran to the loo and shook for about two hours.
That was the start. I was commended for my efforts, and was quite proud of myself! The recording of this event is crap, but it marks the departure point.
The next leap was to join Dan’s Songwriting Circle at Mac Birmingham. I’ve been there every term ever since. I played recordings I had made, but rarely sang, only for the end of term concert which was basically each other, a few family and friends. Each performance I did at the beginning was an exercise in barely controlled terror, but there was something about it that made me carry on. Not least the instant, positive reactions… You just don’t get that with visual arts…clapping! Who knew?!
So I carried on writing and recording, and while the earth moved around me, and life carried on unregarding, I got better at it, less nervous, more confident in my voice and my songs. So much so, that, when I got my studio and finished work, an idea had come to me… The Big Idea… To do a series of songs to accompany these bras I was planning to make. I applied for funding to do the songs, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it on my own, and I had already called in all the favours. My application to ACE was successful and Nine Women came into being.
Right up to very nearly the end, I was definitely NOT going to perform live. And again, I think Dan said, “If not now, when?”
So I did it. With Dan playing with me of course, it was brilliant! I loved it! I still thought that the performance wasn’t part of the work exactly, but it was great to do it. My songs, my art, my gallery, my studio, my audience. Once in a lifetime. Had to be done! I received many compliments from unexpected people, and began to believe I could do it properly maybe….
NINE WOMEN VIDEO
Back in the songwriting circle, at least once a term, collaboration sessions happen. I was put into a small rehearsal room with three other writers: Dave Sutherland, Ian Sutherland and Andy Jenkins. All of them have been writing, playing and performing for many years… I felt privileged and slightly overwhelmed… What could I possibly offer these three? I threw some lyrics into the mix, and less than an hour later we had a song. Sometimes, the chemistry and the mix is just right. It was a good song. So, after a while, we decided, with a big push from Dan Whitehouse again, that we should pursue this combination of personalities and skills, see if it was a fluke, or whether we could do it again. We had a few sessions together, and now, a few months later, we have about eight songs worth performing and recording. We have a band name: “The Sitting Room” and would you believe it we have out first gig booked to play these songs in public. It is in an art gallery, which is perhaps my comfort zone, if not the guys’!
A gig. Me. And these three lovely men who shore me up and make me feel not just competent, but pretty good, like I can really do it. I have confidence in them, if not myself… If I go wrong they’ve got me… Which makes me pretty determined to not go wrong.
So… If you find yourself in the midlands, near Redditch on January 29th, consider coming to the inaugural exhibition at the lovely new Artists Workhouse, Studley, look at the art, talk to the artists, and have a listen to the inaugural public appearance of The Sitting Room.