A Week Making Tracks

 

Pam Thomson acted as supporting artist on the first full week of Making Tracks our partnership project with the Irene Taylor Trust (Music in Prisons) which took place in Oldham in early July 2018. In this blog she shares a few reflections on the experience.


I have just finished a week in the role of supporting artist at the first outing of Making Tracks in the north of England and wanted to record my experience of the whirlwind that’s been the last five days.

 Photo: Anna White

Photo: Anna White

I knew that the project was fast-paced: musicians collaborate with participants to compose original songs, produce a high-quality recording, deliver a professionally-presented performance to family and friends and work on a submission for the national Bronze Arts Award, all in the space of five working days. However, I hadn’t counted on other pressures that the participants could be under (and were), such as interviews and family illness, which limited their time even further. The calibre of lyrics the young people produced in only two-to-four sessions was impressive. Three of the four participants produced all the lyrics for four original songs. Sometimes, on Day 3 (the recording day), they needed to come up with a new verse in a matter of minutes. One of the participants commented on this during the final day’s evaluation session: he said it was useful to experience being under pressure in this setting so that, when he’s at work, that stress won’t be something new to deal with. Another participant chose to work with the drums: it was great to see how focused she was and to witness her confidence in demonstrating her skills to staff at Oldham Arts. In fact, I enjoyed seeing how committed all the participants were to their roles. There was a moment when I was sitting with the three lyric-writers at one of those times when they needed to work fast, and I had a sense of sitting among a creative power-house, because of the energy with which they were trying out rhymes and rhythms with one another: it was wonderful to feel part of that. I have to say that I also enjoyed seeing how the musicians approached facilitating the project, and witnessing the rapport they built up with the participants.

Through the participants’ work for the Bronze Arts Award, I learnt a lot about Rap artists that I had never really had the confidence to listen to before. To be honest, enjoying that genre of music had almost felt like appropriation, as though I wasn’t entitled to appreciate it. I actually felt ‘permitted’ to seriously listen to some artists I had never heard before. I was particularly blown away by TuPac’s eclectic mix of genres and now have the confidence to revisit this music.

 Photo: Anna White

Photo: Anna White

I have to say I was really moved by the content of the some of the participants’ lyrics, especially as (for part D of their work for the Arts Award) three members of the group explained to me something of their creative processes, talking articulately about connecting with the emotion involved and trying to write something real that listeners would relate to. In the final session of the week, I was able to join in with one of the activities and, for the first time, try to write and perform some Rap lyrics myself. The participants were incredibly supportive and, I think, appreciated my attempts!

There is so much more I could write. I feel I have learnt so much and, from personal feedback I have had from both the participants and musicians, I also feel I’ve contributed something to a very worthwhile week.

Pam Thomson

 

 

 

 
Pam Thomson