Spotlight Music & Words Collaboration

A workshop response by Norman Hadley


A delight deferred is a delight magnified. Someone probably already said that but, if not, it’s (c) me, OK?  See, I’ve wanted to join in the Music & Words Collaboration for years but Ron and Sarah have always billed it as a two-day shindig and the chances of getting that through a board meeting…

Well, this year it was re-advertised as a one-day event so I grabbed the chance. There was something else that had been nagging away at me for even longer. When I was but a tot, my first ‘in’ to poetry was listening to records of John Betjamen reading his work to the flighty arrangements of Jim Parker, so the idea of merging verse and music had been gestating a while.

The workshop was ably co-facilitated (see how quickly you get co-opted into the language of these turnouts?) by Shaun Blezard and Ann Wilson. Ann I knew from Spotlight and sundry readings and once met never forgotten. Shaun I didn’t know at all but was a suitably ebullient co-host.  There were lots of new faces because, of the ten attendees, I knew only the irrepressible Kate Davis and the irredeemable ordained humorist Pascal Desmond.

But what a talented crew they turned out to be, including writer Louise Fazackerley, poet Chris Culshaw, writer Di, flautist Kirsty and clarinettist-cum-voice-magician Sarah Robinson. We were paired, tripled and quadrupled into various groupings so we got to work with most of the others. Ann and Shaun did a superb job of keeping the energy in the room so the buzz never faded. The exercises were imaginatively chosen and exercised with vim. Tucked away in the back room, there were excellent recording facilities so our efforts could be committed to silicon.

For the first recording I was paired with acoustic guitarist James Wood and we put together a pleasing piece – a sort of spoken song, complete with an AABA structure – about being lost in the desert, his Morricone-inspired plucking layering well with my tale of a blistered Eastwood in need of a drink.

As the day was ending, and some of the musicians had packed their kit away, Ann set the writers one last challenge, to write about an incident that encapsulated a particular time in your life. So I knocked off a thumbnail sketch about writing my dissertation by head-torch, lying in a bivvy bag under a star-strewn Lakeland sky. Standing by was electric guitarist Mark Rotherham, armed with an effects computer so powerful it would probably beat me at chess. I read the poem to him as he set everything up, not expecting him to be listening that intently…

But despite having only half-heard the poem once, Mark uncorked a fantastic sound that fitted the words perfectly, a floaty audio shimmer that reminded me strongly of Robyn Hitchcock’s “Autumn is your last chance”. And that was exactly what I’d come for – to hear someone with the instrumental talent to take another’s words and create something better than the bits.

So top marks to Shaun and Ann for a cracking day’s workshop. If and when they run the next one (keep an eye out), I’d encourage anyone, whether stanza-smith or string-twanger to give it a go.

Only, you’ll have to elbow me out of the way first.


3 Responses

  1. I’ve just been listening to the MP3 files and it truly was a productive day! Spotlight will be running the workshop again next year.

  2. I’ve been to 2 of these workshops (as a musician) and I’ve found that it’s broadened the range of my songs/ performance art.

  3. Yes, it was an interesting fast paced day. I am not very good at improvisation. I was a bit out of my comfort zone but Ann and Shaun did a fantastic job encouraging everyone to produce some amazing work.

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