2016 Review

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I find myself in a small and rare bubble of time, between the shopping and the preparing for Christmas, and the time when I have to start doing things with food and people and presents…

So, adhering to custom, and basic personality traits, at the end of the year I find myself looking back. The looking forward bit will undoubtedly follow later. This is for my own benefit, please don’t feel obliged to read it all. Hindsight and perspective are useful tools…

In January I found myself surrounded by boxes in my dining room again, having successfully thrown myself out of my studio in a bit of a strop. Justifiable, but still an example of my impatience and lack of tact. I began looking at other places. It was grim, but kind of exciting. I had thought-we had thought- Dan and I, that a joint studio somewhere central was the way to go. So I applied successfully for an a-n bursary to help us look. We exhausted the money and the energy within a couple of months and couldn’t find anything that would suit both sets of circumstances, that we could afford at least! But it sowed seeds, helped us fine tune what we actually needed and wanted.

Meanwhile, following on from the previous term at Songwriting Circle, Andy Jenkins, Ian Sutherland, Dave Sutherland and myself started writing more songs together. We crammed ourselves in amongst the packing cases and wrote our socks off! And at the end of January The Sitting Room had their first gig! We had about six group songs.

February pages in my diary read like one great big tour of gigs and gallery visits, rehearsals, writing…

March continued in a similar vein, including I think the first proper outing with Sonia Boué that turned into a series of meetings about a real time real life version of The Museum for Object Research. It’s at this point in my review I realise how much unpaid speculative work goes into a project before even getting to the point where you are able to apply for funding!

More gigs to go to in April, more writing, more very slow making, distracted by sporadic bursts of studio viewing…

May got to me a bit, I remember, still no studio, but meeting up with other artists, talking about work, pending projects, shelved projects. I also started introducing people to each other… particularly Dr Jacqueline Taylor to Sonia… Jacqueline is going to be our artist researcher… An exciting development on the slow-burn MfOR…

June looks frantic! A bit of work for New Art Gallery Walsall, and three meetings about a studio that subsequently came to nothing – more wasted, unpaid time! About five gigs, several songwriting sessions, and a couple of PVs… And a suggestion of a different studio arrangement… Exciting!

July sees me wasting more time on the Jerwood Drawing Prize, traipsing to London twice, one lot of boredom relieved by Mike, the return journey by the delightful Jill Hedges. We sat in an unremarkable cafe on Baker St, for about four hours. (A pattern I repeated with Sonia)
The weeks in July, along with my son’s graduation, and a chunk of work for the Artist Teacher Scheme with BCU, see me preparing to move into my new studio, sharing with the wonderful Sarah Goudie.
I also have a songwriting day with Michael Clarke – how that happened I’ll never quite figure out, but we write three songs in the day, all very different from each other, from anything either of us has written previously, we like them, have no idea what we will do with them, but trust the process, and decide we will do it again!

So on August 1st I move into the new studio. It takes me ages to shuffle around with my work until I am comfortable with it again, and although a little chilly now the winter is here, those summer rehearsals and songwriting sessions were terrific too. Dave Sutherland has moved on to great things with his duo Ashland, and other performances with other bands, especially the wonderful Kim Lowings and The Greenwood, so he’s not with us three any more, but the songs are still coming thick and fast, this creative relationship is highly productive and very inspiring! The days not working at NAGW are spent in the studio… And my thoughts are starting to gel again… Sense returns… And another trip to meet Sonia… We are starting to really see this project working now…

September sees a new songwriting circle term start…. And I’m still a member… An addict… More singing, more writing, more of everything… My visual work is nudging along… I feel on the edge of something… Keep stitching…

October sees me performing more, I’m getting better at it I think… And I’m just settling into a routine of days in the studio, evening rehearsals… Writing more… And getting involved properly with Nicki Kelly whose ACE funded VIP Project gets off the ground too! I had a bit of an epiphany regarding the nature of my stitching…

November sees The Sitting Room do their first open mic night, I’m nervous, but I do it, and loved it!
Agnes Obel gig at Birmingham Town Hall is magical! A few more band rehearsals ready for December, including the very exciting introduction of Lloyd McKenzie, percussionist extraordinaire!At the end of the month I had another writing day with Michael Clarke who has, since the last session, gained superstar status as the keyboard player in (Ricky Gervais’) David Brent’s band Foregone Conclusion in “David Brent: Life on the Road” – Astonishing! We write two and a half more songs, and have a tweak at the ones we wrote last time. The day zooms past, funny, inspiring, hugely creative and productive.

This month started with my first Open Studio event at The Old Library Studios in Stourbridge… And sadly it might be the last, as it looks like this glorious Victorian building, built for the benefit of the people of Stourbridge may be sold off for some nightmare developer to convert into apartments with mezzanine floors breaking into the spaces and the flooding light… More news to follow I expect. But the open weekend was fabulous, I sold two pieces of work, The Sitting Room rehearsals paid off as we performed a live set each day. A really useful exercise on home ground, and Lloyd’s first outing with us was fantastic, the songs have more space to grow into now we have a percussionist with us!

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Dan Whitehouse held a pre-Christmas gig at St Paul’s church in the Jewellery quarter, and it has set me right up for the festive season. Beautiful music in beautiful surroundings.

I’m gathering info and ideas and logistical notions for the Museum for Object Research too… The website and new blog is now live! I have a spreadsheet.

So, I head into Christmas, looking back over a bumpy year, but appreciative of personal and professional growth, and with joy at the prospect of more to come!

Merry Christmas, readers and listeners, and a Happy New Year!

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