Saturday, 9 September 2017

Northampton

I got up at shit o'clock yesterday and drove to Northampton where I'd been booked to do a day of filming with BBC Look East about the Nene composition.

The day started at the music school, with an interview at a piano, where they asked me to play a few themes from the piece which I couldn't really get my fingers around! The thing about telly is that you always get told to do painfully embarrassing things which usually involve mocking up a scene to demonstrate something which the cameras weren't there to film when it actually happened. Yesterday's involved Beth coming into the room and our having the most painfully embarrassing conversation about red kite bird song! Egg sandwiches all over the place!

The thing is, as a maker of telly myself, I completely understand why these things have to happen. And Shaun from the BBC is so good-natured and fun to be around that it never stays eggy for that long. It was great to be at the music school. That building literally hums with memories. Every single corner has some significance attached to it and it never seems to change. I talked passionately about the importance of access to creativity and culture for young Midlanders. So much gets written about inner city kids but, in my view, that's not where the issue is. If you live in Elephant and Castle, for example, you've got all the Southbank London cultural institutions not just on your doorstep, but coming into your schools and running local initiatives to fulfil their funding criteria. This allows young people to aspire to be involved in the arts. You just don't get that level of initiative in the Midlands, where kids often can't get back to their homes by public transport after the theatres in Northampton have finished. If your nearest theatre or concert hall is 20 miles away, and your school has cut music and drama from its syllabus, how can you ever be expected to experience art, let alone participate in it?

From Northampton, we went to Hardwater Mill at Great Doddington. On my epic walk along the Nene last December, I stopped there for some time, listening to, and recording, the sound of a sluice gate, which actually turns out to be a hydro-electricity generator. It made a fabulous rhythmic boom which has become a feature of my composition and actually set the tempo for the first four minutes of the piece. In summer, however, the sonic experience created by the generator is entirely different and far less exciting than the sound I heard in December.

The filming day ended down by the Nene in Higham Ferrers, my childhood home. I was encouraged to talk about my past which was a little difficult at times. I don't really see myself in the lad who used to go down to the river on blustery winter days, or the teenager who sat doodling the initials of people he was in love with in a dusty area of soil underneath a bench down there. It all seems very distant now. There's a little plaque down there which talks about the nature reserve they created after my time. The plaque shows a photograph of an old, high-humped Victorian bridge, which I remember very clearly. There was a picture of it being pulled down in 1987. I'm sure the kids who walk past it now think 1987 was a million years ago.

I came home via Toddington Services on the M1, which are, without question the nastiest Services in this country. Every time I go there there's something awful happening in the loos. Yesterday it was floods. Pissy floods. Broken doors. A general lack of interest in making the place nice.

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