Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Festival Melting Pot

‘Scuse my absence. I have neglected my post for two weekends in favour of two music festivals: the Wickerman near Kirkcudbright in Dumfriesshire and WOMAD in Wiltshire, indie-ish and world music respectively. I have done very little writing of any kind, but this has been just the ticket. When I get stuck and my writing makes no sense even to me, music or visual arts or dance bring me back refreshed. While I’m busy avoiding the keyboard, I wonder vaguely what the word equivalent might be of, for instance, the last movement of Dvorak’s cello concerto (massively heroic tale of tortured love with much horseback riding) or a Joan Miro painting (quirky, strange, elemental haiku or something about liquorice allsorts) or the floor of a festival dance tent (young men trying to catch birds or, of course, big fish, little fish and cardboard boxes.) As I write this, heading north in the train home to Glasgow, it feels like the night before Christmas (only without the cooking and troubling relatives). When I open the parcel of my writing mind, what will be in there? Jewels or just a pair of old socks.

Briefly and before this happens and the writing desk grips me again, here’s a summary of the festivals:

The Wickerman was beautifully formed in size and layout, but the music not very interesting. However its main feature was the friendliness of the people who all appeared to be essentially happy and came from all over Scotland, from the north of England and from Ireland. A cheerful party, it was worth it for the location alone.

WOMAD was far bigger and the toilets and showers nowhere near adequate, so we cheated and bought spa tickets so we could avoid the hour long shower queues while our tent was raided and the booze taken. Lessons learnt. But the music was a fabulous treat with sounds from all over the world and many moods and styles to match. This year’s favourites were Anda Union from Mongolia and Barrunto Bellota of Spain via Eastern Europe.

Honourable mention goes to, who wasn’t playing this year but should have been. Her album Harpaphonics is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard and is played mostly on a nyckelharpa, a Scandinavian stringed, keyed instrument. Let your heart soar.

But I have to confess a bias. Griselda and I are old friends. We were five when we first met but lost each other for a couple of decades until last year. Artists in different genres now, our creative processes and experiences of collaboration have many cross-overs, the needs and tricks that keep us going, the things we put up with for the sake of our work, the joys and so on, are more similar than different. She is collaborating with Juldeh Camara of Ghana, and I with Kusay Hussain of Iraq (more on this another time). We both spent the day before WOMAD losing our glasses and having almighty panics as a result. Without mine I can’t read, so no menus, timetables, operating instructions and all those other essentials of modern life can be negotiated, never mind the reading of great literary works or indeed any actual writing. Griselda’s have still to appear. Mine turned up in my daughter’s tent which I hurriedly and rather tetchily folded for her because she was late (again). Said glasses slipped quietly out of the neck of my tee-shirt into the green folds of her Vango and thence the tent-bag and so to my mother’s house for major tent repair, returning to me via the kiosk of the Grosvenor cinema in Glasgow’s West End where Harry Potter was showing. The logistics of their return were long and tedious so this incident will not be repeated. Meanwhile it pleases me to think Griselda is wearing my old, little-girl-pink, glasses which I took to WOMAD as emergency backup. Glasses, friendship, music and the written word are for sharing.


  1. Hi Sue, lovely blog! I agree that it's refreshing to go off to hear music or go to exhibitions and very important to have a break from the keyboard. Especially in summer I think, the time to go out and experience after all we'll have all winter to be snowed in and maybe get some writing done!

  2. Thanks Morelle! It's an old trick a piano teacher, Anne Crawford, taught me when I kept making the same mistake over and over again. She'd distract me with something completely non-piano related and then I'd go back and play the thing just fine. It's as if your brain gets all tied up in knots. If you keep pulling at it the knots tighten, but if you let it slack it falls away. A bit like sleeping on a problem.