My Arts Council project window has officially closed and I’m about to write my final report for them, comparing estimated costs with actual costs, identifying problems and lessons learnt, assessing the overall impact and generally wrapping the whole thing up (though hopefully this is just the beginning for Jocasta).
This was the first time I’d applied for funding. In the past I have mostly bartered with favours and done stuff on the cheap, using the creative network of like-minded artists all trying to make stuff happen without having to auction a kidney – there’s a lot of help available if one is willing to help others in return. I still believe emerging artists should follow this model before launching headlong into grant applications and kickstarters – a lot is possible with a little. Once you’ve discovered the power of your immediate network, in the form of favour-swapping and goodwill (not forgetting what you can give as well as what you can get) then you can properly assess how best to develop your art and the collaborative skills learnt along the way. And that’s when funding bodies can take up the baton and help creators do truly amazing things.
What this funding allowed me to do was seize a moment that would otherwise have been out of reach. Block-booking months of studio time and entire day sessions with ensembles rather than scrabbling around the edges of people’s schedules meant there was a real sense of energy and focus to the whole process. For such a big project this was essential – getting the rhythm section parts for thirty songs done in the space of a single week meant that nothing got stale; every subsequent addition was transformative, each development a revelation. Recordings were not allowed to stagnate or fester, changes could be made instantly, we mixed as we went, maintaining a solid sense of where we were at at each stage (nothing had to be “fixed in post”). This album was a speeding juggernaut of activity.
And all the while the news spewed out its bile. People who’ve listened to the finished album keep telling me how timely it all is: from the stuff about media bias to internal party power struggles. We’re locked in a studio recording swing shuffles about spin politics and bassoon riffs over hate speak, then emerge to find these subjects reflected back at us on social media and in newspapers. Indeed there was recently an amazing piece of investigative journalism about Robert Mercer and Cambridge Analytica that eerily reflected a moment in the final act of my script. To be able to assemble something quickly that somehow runs parallel to current events is a deeply unsettling thing, but also perhaps a valuable one. I’m so glad it was possible, even if it gives me the creeps.
In the face of recent events I grow less and less convinced of art’s power to directly influence, that more often it merely lends muscle to the reflections of our creative alter-egos, posturing in the mirror, seen only in our wishful thinking. But I do continue to believe in art’s ability to respond, rally, provoke, educate, comfort, invigorate and unsettle, to focus not just our wooly ideas but also our wooly emotions. Of course, our art can also distract, deceive, deflect and dumbfound. But that choice is ours. Just look at Tony Walsh (who appears on the Jocasta soundtrack in the song “Before You Disperse”), after the Manchester Arena bomb his poem This Is The Place offered an emotional sanctuary to all those struggling with the trauma. A handful of small-minded haters inevitably cried out that poetry is not a solution. No it is not a solution, it’s a support, an ongoing one. And without support nothing is ever solved.
But the project report I must submit to the Arts Council is supposed to be about ME and MY success and MY failures and MY reach. How could it really be about anything else? It is so easy to become obsessed with a single project, so easy to let the world slip by unnoticed, a grey blur next to the soaring colours of one’s own brilliance. So I am glad that it is impossible for me to look back on the work without seeing thousands of people grappling with centuries of repeated folly, endlessly reimagined for each subsequent generation, recast and redecorated with different uniforms and different slogans and different people to blame. This project was born out of current affairs that have been current affairs since affairs began, oiling the gears of the eternal inequities that seemingly underpin every establishment our civilisation conjures up.
Anyway, I digress. I really need to switch off the news, check through the invoices and start totting up the petrol receipts.
History repeats itself.
So does mythology.
BACK TO MAIN JOCASTA PAGE
Read an article about adapting the myth
Read an article about composing the songs
Read an article about writing the script
Read an article about the studio team
Read an article about recording the rhythm section
Read an article about recording the singers
Read an article about the orchestration
Read an article about recording the crowd vocals
Read an article about mixing the album
View photos from the Lowry showcase event
View rehearsal photos
And here’s a piece about being funded by Arts Council England