As I neared the end of my 30s, the idea of turning 40 felt like a daunting prospect . However, once that milestone was passed, it seemed as though I had a new lease of life. Self-imposed boundaries began to ease and a renewed sense of possibility set in.
It’s now quite a while since the ‘show’ has finished. The venue staff is keen to get everything packed away. The audience is, therefore, asked to stack the chairs at the back of the auditorium. So, the literal deconstruction of the performance environment continues.
And with that comes the further removal of barriers between performer and audience. Now, people are free to move, mingle and dance. They get involved with the song and one group improvises a refrain, along with the guitar riff.
Freed from the constraints of sitting in rows, the public now enjoys a sense of release. But with that comes uncertainty. Now the rules of engagement have been broken: where will this show take them next?
On a trip back to the UK from Germany, to work on a film project, I visited our old neighbour, Hersey, in Bath. She asked me if I had heard about Barry, who lived across the street. Barry Maunder was transport manager for the Environment Centre in Bath (then’Evolve’). There, he was instrumental in setting up Car-Free Day. This was taken up all over Europe but soon dwindled in the UK.
Hersey explained that funding for Barry’s job at Evolve had been cut. I thought this strange, since he was the Transport Manager, arguably the most vital role within that organisation. Having said that, Barry was not always popular, since he regularly stood-up to local traders, who were often unable to see beyond the bonnets of their customer’s vehicles. So I had my suspicions as to why he, in particular, had been seen as dispensable.
Hersey then explained that Barry had become very ill, after losing his job, and then died. This was, naturally, a huge shock. As far as I had been aware, he was fit and well the last time I had seen him, only a year or so previously.
Barry lived for his work and was a tireless campaigner, during a period in which there was a lot of apathy and indifference towards environmental concerns. Could it be that, now Barry’s purpose had been taken away from him, he had somehow lost the will to live? Or was it just a cruel coincidence?
Whatever the cause and effect, I wondered whether we could reinvigorate car-free day in Barry’s name. This being a time before Social Media, my efforts to whip-up support for the idea, once back in Germany, didn’t get very far. But I did write a song…
Not long after our daughter Mari was born, my mother-in-law had some heart problems. This led to her needing a double bypass, and uncertainty as to how things might progress from there. After a time, she and my father-in-law decided that the family home was now too much for them to look after. So, they found a suitable flat nearby.
We now had a second child, a son ‘Florian’, and our small 2-up-2-down was beginning to feel a little cramped. So, when my in-laws suggested we come and live in their house in Germany (where my wife had grown up), it seemed like a great opportunity. Except that, for me, things had been going very well indeed where we were, in Bath.
Being dislocated from our adopted home, I became prone to bouts of bad temper and anger. I was worried about how this might affect our son in particular. These were his formative years and his sister had enjoyed a much calmer version of me during hers. However, when he was 3 years old, he let me know everything was OK.
Mari had just turned 5 and we were having a birthday party for her. Some of her friends from Kindergarten were invited – both boys and girls. The girls played happily together in the kitchen, face-painting and making pictures. The boys, meanwhile, just wanted to rough and tumble.
So I engaged the boys in play fighting. Which was fine, until Florian saw them apparently attacking his Dad. And he was having none of it. Two years younger and outnumbered as he was, Florian fought off these little thugs, with a look of thunder on his face.
My heart filled with love, admiration and a little relief at Florian’s heroic defense of his old man. And, of course, I wrote a song about it…
When you become a parent for the first time, it feels like a tremendous responsibility. It’s also incredibly exciting. Suddenly, you are aware of the enormous potential in life. Your child could grow up to be anyone and do anything. And you will have a key role in shaping that journey.
So, it feels really important to keep on growing yourself. Now, you must face your own prejudices, desires and disappointments. How can you be the best possible role model for your child? Can you maintain your own integrity whilst putting the needs of your family first?
For me, it was an exciting time, personally, when my daughter was born. I was beginning to make connections in the creative world and finding new opportunities. In the midst of all of this, a chance encounter on a train threw everything into sharp relief. And gave me the chord structure for a new song…
The gig is over, the band has left the stage and then returned to pack up. But the audience is till there. Awkward…
So, we look at why it may be that endings can be uncomfortable and it is not always easy to leave a given situation. Perhaps this reflects our fear of leaving altogether? Why are we so reluctant to talk about that – to engage with the topic of death?
When I was 25, I had my first encounter with bereavement. A good friend, who had been an inspiration to me, died in a car crash. Alistair had been, somehow, ahead of the curve. He was a free spirit, well-traveled and highly intelligent.
We had recently resumed contact after a period during which we had both been away. I was excited for Alistair to see where I was now living and to meet my friends. It had taken until into my 20s before I had begun to understand how I fit into things and really wanted to share this with him.
When Alistair died, I wasn’t well-equipped to deal with it. I went, with a friend, to his funeral but felt awkward and out of place. Not joining his family for the wake was a mistake. But… I did write a song.
This song was originally used as a pre-recorded playout track at the end of ‘Think of a Song’ and reflects the overall sentiment of the trilogy. It’s about a festival experience, at which I let go of my innate self-consciousness and – with a little help from my friends – cut loose.
It’s inclusion here is for continuity. It represents the ending of the second show ‘Think of a Sequel’, in which it was performed live. This time, the audience come in as the track is played. This is the ‘end of the concert’, after which the band and I leave the stage. As you will see, we then drift back on to pack up. At this point, I notice the audience still in place and things progress from there.
The show seeks to pose questions about endings and departures. Specifically, it deals with death and renewal. We ask ourselves why endings are so uncomfortable and daunting. And we explore the notion that perhaps the end isn’t really as final as we may think.
On drums is the multi-talented Dom Bailey. Dom is a producer, keyboard player, guitarist, drummer and sound engineer. He mixed and produced my recent album ‘Invisible’, soon to be re-released under my ‘a Band named Brian’ moniker, at his Nine Volt Leap studio. The synths you hear come from the album version of this track and were synced to the live performance by Dom.
Daniel Whiston is on bass. Daniel is a writer, graphic novelist and bassist for the inimitable band ‘Mighty Dynamite’. Our connection comes via Mighty Dynamite’s former drummer Jason Albarin, who is name-checked in the song. The festival in question was Sunrise, at which Jason and I played in two bands: Plucky Purcell and Thompson’s Lovechild.
If you were at last week’s show, you will know that the underlying message was to make the most of our interactions while we can. We regularly neglect those that mean most to us. And we often miss the opportunity to let those that have inspired or helped us know how we feel about them.
The finale was this choral and dance piece ‘Sing as One’. Members of the Bath Spa University choir and BA Dance students worked together with Francis Faux (conducting), Michelle Rochester and Kara Herbert. The result, I hope you will agree, was quite magical.
The choir were originally going to be spaced around the hall, with the dancers moving out towards them from the centre. All would then move back to centre. We realised, however, that this was too complicated.
Francis suggested the choir should be together throughout, as the timing is both difficult and crucial to the piece. In the end, this turned out to be much better. The choir illuminating their scores from the darkness, with the dancers moving around them, created a very pleasing tableaux.
Sometimes an apparent practical obstacle can lead to a satisfying creative solution!
Do you find it hard to leave? Are farewells awkward? Do endings make you uncomfortable? You’re not alone.
Perhaps our reluctance to say goodbye reflects a deep-seated fear of the ‘big one’. Sooner or later, we will all bid adieu for the last time. But life is full of endings. And beginnings. Without one, we couldn’t have the other.
What really matters is what we do in the middle. The bit between ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Some people seem so preoccupied with their legacy they are unable to deal effectively with what is happening right now. They find themselves set on a rigid path and fixated on a single destination.
How much experience and diversity are we denying ourselves if we adopt this stance? Shouldn’t we simply embrace the chaos and go with the flow? Is it possible to have an aim in life but still remain open to new possibilities?
Maybe it’s time to explore the Fringes of your own perception:
Thank you to those that have bought tickets and let me know. I hope you enjoy the free (ahem – no strings attached…) taster. If you have not received this, please let me know.
Apart from putting my mind at rest, it really is worth booking ahead. That way, you will have made a commitment and will not forget on the day (I know that happens, I’ve done it). And you know that your place is assured in what will be a unique evening’s entertainment.
Finishing touches are now being made. Without giving too much away, you can expect a one-off theatrical experience that incorporates story, song, surprise and serenity. The whole thing continues the deconstruction of performance explored in the previous two parts. And it will, once again, put you – the audience – at the heart of the show.
With one week to go until Think of a Conclusion, things are hotting-up behind the scenes. Final rehearsals are taking place, the press is amassing on my front lawn, autograph-hunters are hiding in my hedgerow…
Well, maybe not. However, it is time to book your tickets if you’ve not already done so. If the level of interest I’m getting via social media and actual social interaction is anything to go by, then this should be the best-attended ‘Think of a…’ show yet.
So, please don’t miss out. Get yourself a ticket and let me know (so I don’t keep pestering you about it). I really don’t want to be a nuisance but consistently people ask, ‘oh, is that soon?’, ‘when’s it on?’ and ‘surely it should cost more than that!’ (OK, I may have made the last one up).
Let me know if (if???!) you are coming. Forward me a copy of your confirmation and I’ll send you a little something by way of thanks. Think of it less as a bribe and more an appetizer!