I remember a few years ago I saw the photograph 'A great day in Harlem' hanging on my friend Adam Phillips wall. I remember us joking that we should do our own version of the photograph with the musicians of Warwick and Leamington Spa. I recall us setting up a Facebook group but doing no more about it, it got forgotten about and we all moved on.
Jumping forward a few years and I find myself feeling very nostalgic. I'm not sure if it is as a result of becoming a mother, or getting older or because I am spending so much of my time lately listening to people reminisce as part of my songwriting projects. I suspect it's combination of all three.
I believe that friends, family and community are the most important thing we have in this world. I also believe that spending as much time with them as possible is the most important thing anyone can do. Time is something we all have and add to that a little imagination and a bit of effort and we all reap the rewards.
Being a musician means working evenings and weekends and this can often mean missing out on social engagements unless they are booked into the diary a year in advance. This could very easily lead to a solitarty existence whereby I just get to watch other people have a good time with their friends whilst standing behind a microphone and instrument entertaining them. Equally having small children has its limits as far as socialising goes, for on the odd night I'm not gigging, I have small people to manage and they sap energy so I don't feel like going out even if we could find a babysitter.
This is where thinking outside the box proves useful - I started to look around and found others in the same boat. Most of my friends are musicians and they keep the same hours as me. I decided that if we couldn't socialise at 'normal' times, then what was stopping us creating our own social events. At first this started off as a few midweek lunches here and there but, with not much effort, and just a little organising, it's grown and grown into a full weeks itinerary. We have our 'slackers badminton club' who meet every Wednesday lunchtime, we have had 12+ musicians / self employed people all battling it out on the court. Badminton is great fun, but it represents more than that, for I'm now seeing people on a regular basis that I have not seen in years. Similarly I found out about a new yoga class starting in Leamington on Tueadays with my favourite teacher. I decided to go and messaged the other 'slackers' asking them if they'd like to join me. This has become yet another regular meet up with people I haven't seen for years. The National Trust has become another activity - when you ask about, its surprising how many musicians are members of the National Trust - the new rock and roll!
I love our new social calender, it's brought us back together and made me feel a part of the scene again and best of all I still have the rest of the week to spend with my family and the weekend to gig.
I have always enjoyed doing things differently to the norm, my husband and I live on a boat, we are musicians, we don't have a TV (we do watch Iplayer and Netflix) , I have a juicer that gets regular use, we home ed our kids. I am happy, very very happy with our lives and I feel so blessed to have all of this. However it's not all luck, I have worked hard to get to what I want.
It takes equal measures of confidence and stupidity to go your own way. I'm not always right but I'm comfortable with who I am and I love to try. In today's society we are constantly saying things like 'yeah let's meet up' and it never happens. Or 'I'd love to do [insert idea]' and nothing gets done about it. Over the last few years I've really grown into my own skin and I've realised what's important in life. This has caused me to make a conscious effort to action things. If a friend says 'let's meet up' I get the diary out and try and make it happen. We have lots of people coming round for lunch (another social activity that works with our lives) and this is because instead of just saying 'you should come round for lunch one day' I have followed it up with an email with a lists of dates.
Not so long ago the Facebook group 'A great day in Leamington' that Adam and I set up all those years ago popped back into my conscious and it came at just the right time. I decided to make it happen and felt confident I could do so as this was really just an extension of my new love for getting people together.
I've always loved organising little events and actioning my own crazy ideas, I've been doing it within our family for years. What I love most is seeing people happy and enjoying themselves and I also enjoy surprising people with something out of the ordinary (plus I'm very good at being bossy 🙂)
The reality is that it didn't take that much work to organise 'A great day in Leamington Spa' - a few hours on Facebook, a few phone calls to the council, a day of walking around leamington with Tom scoping out venues. A few messages back and forth to Duncan. The hardest part was making the leap and setting a date and also the final decision on venue but that was only hard as I had 'options' to choose from and cared so much that I didn't want to get it wrong. I also had to fend off irrational thoughts and I had several nightmares in the days leading up to it - I dreamt that we arrived on the morning and the clock tower had been removed. I dreamt that the park ranger wouldn't let us take the photo and ushered us from the park whilst waving his shot gun, I dreamt that there was a dance troop set up exactly where we wanted to be. I dreamt that Duncan forget his camera and was using one of those disposable cameras you get from Boots. But I have learnt to recognise irrationality and treat it for what it is and I even enjoy and laugh at how it tries to distract me and tries to stop me from doing things I want to do.
The point is that there is nothing special about me, everything I do or achieve can easily be done by anyone. In the end 'a great day in Leamington spa' became everyone's project. That's what is so nice about putting into action an idea and getting others involved, for in the end everyone takes ownership and it grows into a lovely community project.
Everyone has ideas that can be turned into something very real and you don't need to do it alone if you need help people will often give you their time in exchange for being a part of something original and joyous. Sometimes you just need to be the spark.
This is nothing new, everyone knows this so I guess the point of this blog is to remind you that acting on your ideas can result in a beautiful thing. We had such a wonderful day yesterday in Leamington, there was over 100 musicians all coming together, some of whom hadn't seen each other for years. It was a moment we will all remember forever. And all it took was a small spark and not listening to the voices in my head that stopped me the first time round.
My parents always told me that they don't care what I choose to do in life as long as I'm happy. That has stayed with me and is essentially my mantra.
So now you've finished reading this go and act on those little things that you've always thought about doing. It's not as hard as you might first think. It just takes a bit of thought, a little leap, a little organisation and with a bit of help, it can snowball into something truly memorable.
Happiness and love are not just for hippies they are for anyone who want them.