Writing for Chedhams
Kelvin and I have a lot of work to do over the next few months. We are involved in a project called 'Discover – Chedham’s Stories' the press release for this describes it as
'a pilot project for Discover -Warwickshire’s Story Trail, a mobile application which offers a new insight into heritage sites in Warwickshire through stories, songs and reminiscences. Chedham’s Yard, the pilot site for the project, will partner with Live & Local to bring this idea to life
Over the next nine months local musicians Kel Elliott & Her Three Man Orchestra will collect stories from volunteers and local residents.
Project curators Live & Local will develop these stories, songs and reminiscences into an innovative guide for visitors to use on their smart phones whilst visiting Chedham’s Yard.
The project is funded by Warwickshire County Council’s Tourism Event Funding scheme'
Kelvin and I have spent the last few months talking to as many of the volunteers and people connected with Chedhams yard as possible, and we have recorded these conversations. That was the easy bit - sitting with a nice cup of tea on a comfy sofa and listening. Now the real work begins.
For me songwriting and lyric writing in particular, has always been a labour of love. I am proud of everything I have ever written and not in a big headed 'I'm great' sense but because I feel connected to each piece of work, like a piece of myself has been given to each of them. I'm there from conception to birth and beyond, the whole process is a journey that is equally frustrating and satisfying. I love having a blank piece of paper in front of me and seeing the paper slowly fill with words, then the crossings out appear, more words are added, and subsequently more crossings out. Then the bits I like are copied out onto another piece of paper, more words are added and more crossings out, this can go on for several weeks, months or just a few hours, and then finally, there it is staring back at me, a new born baby song. This is the start of its little song life, it may alter a little in the first few performances, a few words change, the way a phrase is sung, the melody may alter, often without me realising, for the song settles down naturally.
And so the song starts to grow up. It gets performed and people hear it. People respond to it, they may laugh or cry or nod with a smirk of approval at a clever line that took me ages and I am therefore proud and pleased with this knowing look. To connect a song with the audience is a beautiful thing for once the song is born I am really just the messenger and that song could go off and be sung by another messenger and have its own adventure - this is ultimately the goal of any parent to nurture and then see their baby flee the nest. None of my songs have flown yet but I'm hoping that one day they will go off and have adventures without me.
I once watched a documentary about Mark Knofler, who described the songs he was working on as baby plants and he would check on them each day to see how they were getting on, do a bit of work on them and then put them back in the draw. This image struck me and has helped with my own writing, for once you start seeing yourself as being just 'part' of the process it takes the pressure off a bit. There is a fabulous TED talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert 'your elusive creative genius' which is along the same lines. I recommend it to any writer struggling with a block of any kind as you will see your role in a different way.
So here I am once again with a blank piece of paper, but this time there is an added pressure - to do the yard and everyone we have spoken to justice. I want to capture the love and warmth that they show for the place and that the place shows for them. I would challenge anyone to spend time at Chedhams Yard and talk to the volunteers and not fall in love with the place - there is something truly magical about it. And although I have feelings of anxiety and doubt and worry and excitement and all the other feelings that go with the Unknown this is what I love doing most in the world, writing songs, and so whatever the outcome, I am going to enjoy the journey and the process -for here starts my new labour of love.