I took part in a panel of young(er) theatre makers for Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s TalkFest at Traverse theatre.
The other participants and I were all high on general festival giddiness and it was great fun to hear about their shows and their different approaches. At over 30, I was probably the oldest guest on the panel. I wondered how much my experience was different from the nineteen-year-old beside me. I probably share more points of reference and perspective with people ten years my senior than my junior.
We’d been asked to think of a moment in our lifetimes which defined our influenced the work we do. I chose the arrival of an iMac in our house, and more widely the spread of the Internet as a basic amenity and not the preserves of libraries and military bases.
The early, less commercial, Internet was a place of democratised content, where the Louvre occupied the same profile as The Beano. Where the Harry Potter fansites were better than the official channels. I could develop niche interests, learn basic code, install mpreg mods for The Sims, manage communities and perhaps, most importantly, find likeminded individuals who I would write in partnership with throughout my high school years.
The mix of high and popular culture, the sense of entitlement to appropriate and rework artworks is burrowed deep into the heart of my work. It’s neat to be prompted to consider how and what I make.
I didn’t think music was for me. In the same way that PE wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep up with the class so I was mostly ignored by the teaching staff. Allowed to sit on the steps and reread Gormenghast whilst the others got their swimming badges and cycling proficiency certificates.
Music at school was the same Bonkers happy hardcore 3CD compilation that got passed around the class. When we got older it you either went to the Archaos Unders (dance) or the Cathouse Unders (gothy emo pop punk). Both terrified me but at least at the Catty you’d get ska-punk covers of wedding party classics you could sing along to. I never knew all the words. I didn’t have the right clothes. I didn’t want to kiss any of the boys.
My friends and I would go see the boys we fancy play in bands. Stand at the front of the stage and try to make eyes with them. We’d make their merch for them. Take their promo shots Put them up in our spare bedrooms. The most music we ever made ourselves were unamplified jam sessions with a dad’s borrowed bass and an Argos catalogue electric.
It wasn’t for us.
When someone asks me what kind of music I dig, I get the same nervousness when I’m asked what if there’s anything I can have on a not-so-vegan-friendly restaurant menu. Don’t want to be difficult or for folk to think less of me because of my taste and choice.
The music I love, I LOVE. It’s a layer of my skin. It stops the stuff that hurts from getting too deep.
I think this is a very usual response to music. Just for ages I got it in my head that I wasn’t feeling these things for the right kind of stuff. Which, aye, is nonsense. But I picked it up from somewhere and dragged it along with me for thirty years.
The past year I’ve been working with people whose minds, living rooms and harddrives are a vast catalogue of Western pop, rock and orchestral music. They’ve made me realise a very obvious basic fact about myself. I FUCKING LOVE WORKING WITH MUSIC. AND I'M ALLOWED TO LOVE IT.
Working with Middle Child on One Life Stand in particular opened up avenues for me. Each new album or artist they presented me with like a precious treasure felt like a gift. Even the stuff I didn’t respond to. Each suggestion was a creative response to my ideas that nudged my heart open a little more to the idea that MUSIC IS FOR ME.
So, with that, I’m revisiting some work that I began before spending so much time with musicians and music lovers over the past year. Work that was cautious, embarrassed by its tastes, that didn’t let the girls to the front. And I’m so ready for it.