As the Literary Laureate at this year’s Larmer Tree Festival, I gave myself the task of writing two songs a day about people at the festival. Each day at noon I’d appear on stage in the Lost Woods, sing a few songs and ask for volunteers to come forward from the audience. I would distribute cards with questions on to the audience and get them to recite these aloud in the form of an interview. In this manner we got to know the volunteers. After getting them to sign apiece of paper that said they promise not to take legal action I would then retire to my van (our spacious tent was blown away and ripped to shreds on the first night) and compose in time to perform the new songs that evening.
It was a truly enjoyable experience and a genuine pleasure to have met the volunteers and their friends/families. The songs were a complete surprise to me, where normally songs take on a life of their own, here they took the shape of their ‘owners’. I sat down with JC this week and did some very basic recordings of the songs. Here you go:
Lewis was my first volunteer and a gift for a songwriter. A giant of a man from Aylesbury, people called him LEW, both a shortening of ‘Lewis’ and an anacronym for ‘Large English White’ which is an alternative name for the Aylesbury Duck. At the age of 27 he was married with 4 children and involved with the military, but divorce led him to change his life completely and now he writes poetry and as a geologist unearths unexploded bombs for a living.
A woodcarver who I’d helped out earlier by helping him repair one of his giant slugs. The highlight of his life was climbing the tallest tree in Australia, half way up he became terrified and shook terribly, but he overcame his fears and reached the top 200ft up. His most treasured possession was his carving knife and, unable to drive he was slightly ashamed of being completely dependent on his girlfriend Sandra to get him around.
A lovely girl in her teens, she was fairly shy but insisted she was very loud at school. We learned a few minor facts about her, including the fact that she was in love with her friend Charlie (oops, I wasn’t supposed to repeat that), but nothing prepared us for her answer to the final question ‘what is your ideal job?’……..
Debbie used to work in personnel at Ottakar’s (not payroll as I claim in the song- but it sounded better) so I knew her a bit, we always had a bit of a joke on the phone, accusing each other of being on a permanent tea break. However I found out all sorts of interesting things when she volunteered to have a song written. Her heroine is Joan of Arc, she’d like to speak French, her favourite smell is Jasmine, she’d like a red sports car and longer legs, she believes that we are put on the planet to procreate, her favourite song is Barry White’s ‘My First, My Last, My Everything’ and her nickname is Baish- as in vivacious Debacious. At work we called her Debbie ‘O’.
Emily Jane Moyes
Emily was working at the Larmer Tree after taking a year out after school. In that year she’d been teaching in Vanwatu (what rhymes with Vanwatu?) which is west of Fiji, where she climbed up a waterfall which she said was one of the highlights of her life. She was a vegan who sought happiness in life and believed that after death souls come together in a state of Nirvana. She had a very beautiful Arthur Rackham tattoo on her very beautiful back and a very nice philsophy which I open the song with….
Reluctant to reveal too much, although she did show us her breasts which the band Tunng had signed the night before (after 18 pints her boyfriend Tim said). Amanda (her real name) wished she had continued as a dancer and singer, she’d worked with some big names but wouldn’t tell us why she stopped. Now she was a social worker and she last cried watching a film about child abuse called ‘Precious’. Her favourite smell was the sea, her hero was her mom who lived in France. She described herself as loud, dizzy and quirky.
I’ve had some nice pics sent from Lewis including this of the drawing that Olivia Keith the artist in residence did of the process. She drew Lewis being interviewed on on half and then came back later that evening to get me singing the song I’d written. She even got the little girl holding up my lyrics.
And this of the man himself showing just how Large this English White is (I’m over 6ft)