“Art is often seen as additional, yet I believe the arts are at the core of what makes us human” Felicity Harvest, Arts Council
I came across this quote at a recent meeting at work to do with creativity across the curriculum.
I so agree with it. Being creative gives us a reason to be – something more to get out of bed for than just another pay packet and a management meeting where you just regurgitate a load of bollocks because you feel that’s what you ought to be saying. I can’t actually believe I spent most of the last 20 years doing just that! Although I also don’t mean any disrespect to ex-colleagues – someone has to do it, and most people that I worked with don’t think it’s all bollocks and therefore do it very well – I just often felt that I was merely playing a role – a sign perhaps, that my heart was never really in it.
My work colleagues that I now share an office with are an artist, masquerading as a Community Arts Manager and two professional trained performers who now teach drama and performing arts at secondary school level. I’ve always had a creative streak, and I’m realising now in my conversations, particularly with the artist, that I want to do more creative things. Lots more. Yes, the common theme running through my life thus far is theatre; but there’s so much more untapped creativity in me – I just need an extra few days each week to let it out.
I do regret that I don’t play any one musical instrument well – I learnt the organ as a child, and could play it fairly well, I think, back then, but then dropped it when I got to my teens. I have a piano, yet although I learnt to read music in my organ playing days, and continue to do so when singing, I can’t really play more than basic tunes. I dabbled with the recorder at school, both descant and treble, and still have both instruments. Again, my playing here is restricted to the odd session with Children of Mine, oh and one outing on stage, when playing Sister Robert Anne in Nuncrackers, in lieu of a trumpet (which I really had no cause to think I could attempt). I did learn to play Wipeout on the clarinet for a production of Return to the Forbidden Planet, but that did take some doing, and is, alas, unlikely to be repeated for the good of the world at large. I also remember trying the ‘cello, but probably for not longer than a term when I was about 8.
My next mission is to learn to play the guitar. Husband of Mine has achieved this, very successfully, during the last four years, culminating in his first public performance last Friday with the Renegade Dogs at the Priory Playhouse in Arundel. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – so I badgered him into showing me 3 chords on the wussy nylon stringed guitar belonging to Daughter of Mine. (It hurts, really hurts on his grown-up steel strung guitar.) I can now play – very slowly – A, F and D – allowing me to express myself through such masterpieces as Mull of Kintyre, Kum ba yah and Blowin’ in the Wind.
I used to love art and craft as a child – just a few of the projects I remember are:
- Spending hours copying birds out of a bird book
- Going through a phase of drawing cartoon characters
- Making a model town with a friend to our own design
- Creating paper maché Easter bonnets for a village fete competition with Mother of Mine (and winning!)
I still get a big buzz when I get brand new pens, pencils, or paper. A stationery fetish?
But drama is my big thing. I first got into drama in my last year at Junior School, because of my teacher, Mr Noon. He led music in the school, and always played in assemblies. I can still remember many of the songs he used to teach us. I remember being brave enough in one singing lesson to stand up and sing the song he had taught us the previous week:
Within the woodlands, flow’ry gladed,
By the oak tree’s mossy moot
The shining grass-blades, timber-shaded
Now do quiver underfoot
The brown-leaved shoots are turning red
With clouded sunshine overhead
And there for me, the apple tree
Doth lean down low in Linden Lea.
I may well have got bits of this wrong, so do forgive me if the words have been mixed up in my head – I know there were more verses but this is how I remember it without resorting to research.
Mr Noon used to write the school pantomime every year, and when I was in my last year at the school, he cast me as the Wicked Stepmother in his version of Cinderella. I’ve still got the script somewhere. Anyway, this was the start of it all really, and led on to me joining a local drama group at the age of 11. They encouraged me greatly, to the point of adding me into their production of Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables as an ‘extra’, sitting at the back in a couple of scenes, eating cold sponge pudding in the hotel restaurant with my ‘grandmother’.
This then led to various small parts in adult productions, with the first grown-up role of my own – Adrienne in Noel Coward’s The Marquise – at the age of 14. This production also gave me my first taste of an on-stage snog – the director didn’t let on my real age to my fellow actor until the dress rehearsal!
For the last 20 or so years, I have mainly been involved with two local societies and am guessing that I’ve been in around 100 productions. Eventually I’ll list them all on this site, but as that involves going up in the loft to get boxes full of scrapbooks, programmes and newspaper cuttings that needs a whole series of rainy days and free time. Even in this country I don’t think it rains for that long!
And blogging? It’s my modern take on the scrapbook – and means I’m being creative. Yes?