Of course the trick to having a successful year is to decide what success looks like on your terms.

For me to be successful this year I have sought a happy medium between business and other creative projects. It’s simple: if I neglect one, I don’t eat, if I neglect the other my head explodes.

Happily I have eaten and my head is still intact. So here’s what a successful year looks like to one Brighton-based writer.

  • I have earned enough money through my work with agencies to finance my craving for time. This year agencies have tended to invite me to work on pitches or as cover for absent creative directors. A few months ago I was offered a creative directorship but turned it down. I was flattered but not tempted.
  • The publication of A Guernsey Double, written with Richard Fleming, was supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission. For a writer, the buzz of seeing your name on a book’s spine is hard to underestimate. And it has directly led to several radio appearances, and readings with Richard booked for next year’s Guernsey’s first Literary Festival. Also it compelled me to spend time in Guernsey, the place I love most in the world
  • My collaborations with the composer Matthew Pollard have given me the opportunity to work in a completely different field. Our first work together, called This concert will fall in love with you is due to be recorded next year after its premier in the Brighton Festival Fringe this May. More performances are also planned for next year. Our second work together a short piece called Found written for Brighton’s Rainbow Chorus, and given its premiere in the World Aids Day concert on December 1st. Matthew and I are now working on an Operatic piece around a doppelganger theme which will be performed next year. Learning these new skills is rejuvenating and fascinating. While working with classical musicians has been an extraordinary experience, and the prospect of becoming a recording artist at 51 is extremely cheering.
  • I have put in the hard yards on my children’s novel Skelton Yawngrave. I had the opportunity to workshop it in two Brighton schools, Downs Junior and Stanford Junior, has proved a fascinating experience, leading me to drastically revise the story. The experience of talking to children about literature and the process of creating characters has led directly to me also being booked to lead some children’s sessions at the Guernsey Literary Festival.
  • My short play Wrong will probably be given another short airing in Brighton this February. I am particularly looking forward to this as it involves working with young actors.

So there you have it. Although this may seem self congratulatory, there are plenty of things that can be done better, a theme I shall return to.

Matthew Pollard Music Performance Uncategorized

Theme and variations one and two

Like some kind of ghoul, I am usually unfilmable. And the recordings we made of This Concert will fall in love with you all went wrong in mysterious ways –for example the sound files recorded by Glen Capra were on his laptop, stolen in Northern Ireland. But happily we have just fixed the video camera and here is a flavour of the concert: theme and the first two variations.

The end of the affair

And so… Now that the dust has settled after This concert will fall in love with you. It went very well, with standing ovations and a determination from Matt and I to do it all again, and soon. Frankly I enjoyed dressing up too. I like the whole Victorian melodrama look I went for, despite the purple cummerbund sliding off me during the last performance.

A completely amazing experience for me, who’d never worked with the musicians of the calibre of The Tacet Ensemble before, and I loved every second of it. I was pleased with my own performance, especially on the last night. It has been a long while since I put myself so firmly centre stage, and I have to say it felt great.

From a marketing perspective I learned loads about promoting a concert, which is something I’d never done before. Lots of people who came were alerted through Facebook. However this is clearly means your friends know about it, and doesn’t necessarily create a new audience. Also putting on a show in the middle of Brighton Festival meant that there was so much marketing activity that the (comparatively) last minute press releases and so on I sent out were ignored. While flyering generally felt like adding more litter to the piles of promotional material that filled every nook and cranny in all the pubs and cafes and shops in Town.

Matt and I are planning further collaborations, and we have already discussed our options. So watch this space.

Below a snap by Jane Wrin from the final night.

This concert will fall in love with you update

Nine days to go on the concert. Some rehearsals under my belt and feeling really good about the project. Working with the Tacet Ensemble has been amazing. I had that slightly awestruck feeling of being with a group of classical musicians who are able to simply sit down and play Matt’s score, gorgeously, from the off. Matt’s music is ravishingly beautiful, and I am finding the whole thing rather humbling.

From a marketing perspective it is interesting too. Part of publicising the concert has been to print lots of flyers. Once you start zooming around town you realise there is hardly a square inch of the place that is not carrying some kind of message. Brighton at this time of year is awash with events. One thing I will do differently with flyers is to put facts at the top of the page. When you stack it on stands you only see the top inch of the flyer, so I’ve learnt this needs to carry your message.

Anyone who saw my post on Being Brian Eno will know that the fact that Brian Eno is guest director of the Brighton Festival proper is for me a good omen.

I made this little vid more for fun than anything… but it gives a soundbite at least.

Tickets for This concert will fall in love with you

Rehearsals start tomorrow for This concert will fall in love with you. Getting really excited about the fruits of this collaboration with Matthew Pollard. Tickets are now on sale.

Click the image to book online.

Matthew Pollard Music Performance

This concert will fall in love with you

My collaboration with classical music composer Matthew Pollard is fascinating. Matt recently played me through parts of the first five variations. For me it was incredibly exciting to hear the music taking shape. It is full of delicious uncertainties. And it is quite humbling to hear how they interlace and enlarge on the words I’ve written. Even at this early stage, it is clear just how accomplished he is, and how this work will shine.

The venue for its “world premiere” (digging that!) is going to be on 12th, 13th and 14th May, at St Michael and All Angels Church in Brighton at 7:30pm. The audience capacity is a modest 100. Matt is assembling an eclectic mix of accomplished musicians, and I will be performing the words.

Naturally, we are also discussing how we were going to promote it, and I’ve come up with a look and feel Matt’s happy with. Among normal listing routes (it will be part of the Brighton Fringe Festival) we’ll also use facebook. I’ve not used facebook to promote anything before, so it will be interesting to test for myself how useful this medium is.

This concert will fall in love with you has an unusually audacious concept. We are going to give the listener the unique experience of listening to words and music that describe what it is to fall in love with them personally. It’s weird and it’s wonderful. Watch this space.

Collaboration and trust

This this morning I received the sound file from Matthew of the main theme of This concert will fall in love with you… A really exciting moment hearing the first musical ideas taking shape. The piece may be as long as 40 minutes long, with words and music interwoven. Already Matthew has articulated a beautiful uncertainty in the music, which is perfect for the concept.

I am also currently working closely with Richard Fleming in Guernsey on a collaborative poetry project, called A Guernsey Double.

A successful collaboration needs chemistry of course. But I am a great believer in practicalities too. The most basic of these is that you need clear areas of expertise. In my project with Matt the difference is obvious: music is Matt’s domain, and words are mine.

One of the best things about having a background in a creative agency is that working collaboratively is second nature. As a writer I have usually been paired with an art director when tasked to dream up brands, or create campaigns or concepts. And this ping pong of ideas is, for my money, the most fun you can have in an agency.

Trust is the essential factor. When trust your partner, it is much easier to sacrifice your own idea when your partner comes up with a superior one – and know that they’ll do the same for you.

When trust exists it means you can make what is being created more important than either of your egos. And that has to lead to better work in the end.

As a footnote, and I don’t know if this is just one of my own foibles, I find it much easier to pitch work that I have worked collaboratively on. Knowing that it’s not just me who thinks something’s good, really helps when you are selling it into a client or, in the case of my current collaborations, when we set about promoting them to the public.