I'm thinking ... it may help others to follow their hearts if I explain the journey I have taken to get to this moment, the launch of my Arts Council of Wales Individual Mainline Grant to explore and embark on my own personal creative journey: Fusion Inspire. I am hoping by having an insight into the things that were happening to me, the feelings I experienced and consequently the paths I took, that it may inspire you to listen to your own creative soul too.
Being a community artist is part of the core of who I am. Engagement & particpation for some people are words on a tick list, for me, they are a way of life. I've always been the same. But these last 5 years the balance between Cheryl Beer the Singer/Songwriter and Cheryl Beer the Community Artist has become increasingly one sided, meaning that ultimately, I just had no time at all for my own music. It felt like I was pouring cream from the jug constantly and never having time to re-fill; it is my own music that feeds me, the inner core of me, my soul exists to live for those moments snatched.
Then Christmas 2011 we got snowed in big time, couldn't get the cars out of the drive, couldn't even open the back door to get out! Luckily for me, I was snowed into my studio in West Wales with my friend, who is a sound engineer ... Happy Days! Didn't matter that we had run out of oil for the heating and the truck couldn't make it up the hill to bring us warmth, didn't matter that we ate our way through to the wood of the cupboard, for 2 glorious weeks I wrote and recorded Snow Tracks. This album partly came from a very old place inside me. A place that said what she liked in songs, didn't worry about upsetting the establishment, marched for change ...
A tutor from my college days who had been my Dissertation Tutor on my first degree, Teri Brewer, called me up and asked me if I remembered a song I had written in class @ 25 years ago called 'Lost in a Discourse' I vaguely remembered the song but didn't have a recording of it. She wanted the song to put as the backing track of a film she was making for the British Archeological Society. So I re-wrote and recorded it for her. It was very strange indeed re-visiting a sentiment, a set of feelings that you held when you were a fiesty 20 year old! I had just finished recording it when the snow fell!
Me in my Studio
Some may say, that the universe wanted me to be locked into my studio with my old self; certainly it felt good to visit her. She reminded me of who I was, am, wanted to be, still want to be. Old me, the purist, so clear, so linear focussed compared to the 'new- old me', organic, able to twist and bend ... but she stirrred up a part of me that felt unrest at being so far away from my own music and in hindsight, when the snow melted, it was only a matter of time before a path would be traced back to my inner creative self.
So, I made the effort and grabbed soul moments. When others were asleep, I would be 'snowed' into the studio but I was so busy as Artisitic Director of Carmen Jones of Trevethin, a re-write of Carmen on a council estate in Trevethin funded by Communities First, Heads of the Valleys via Welsh Gov.t. it wasn't long before the candle was burnt at both ends.
Carmen Jones of Trevethin at The National Botanic Garden of Wales
At the same time. I was Freelancing for The Mix with Head for Arts, funded by Reach the Heights and The Arts Council of Wales, engaging young people through a wide range of arts and music mediums. In fact, it was on this contract that I pushed myself to re-train. Young people will engage in things that they want to do ... that's not rocket science is it! I would say the same for ALL people! But if you can't offer them what they want to do, then you need to brush up! So I learnt filming, editing, music technology and crash coursed myself into the 21st Century to be able to offer a gateway for literally 100's of young people who had previously been 'Not in Education, Employment or Training'
Celtic Women CD & Book Launch at The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Far Left: Amanda, Centre: Me, Right Suzanne
In addition, I also had a contract as Creative Director of Celtic Women a Carmarthenshire based community project delivered through a partnership with Community Music Wales funded by Big Lottery and Welsh Gov.t supported by The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Arts Care Gofal Celf as well as many local businesses. 370 people took part in workshops with me, creative writing, film, music technology, story etc and then we published a book and CD of their work via my Community Publishing Co. which we then launched at The National Botanic Garden of Wales.
So when June slipped her sunshine onto the Cardigan Coastline and beckoned worshippers who gathered at Morfa Isaf Farmhouse to celebrate birthdays together, these treasured moments were my solace. A chance to catch up with lots of friends at once, to find out what was going on in their lives.
Morfa Isaf Farm, Cardigan
Morfa Isaf is a very special place to me. It's where my very gifted and beautiful friend Amanda Painting lives with her mother Beryl. I met Beryl and Amanda 10 years ago when I had an advert on the internet looking for older women musicians to interview about the History of Women's music in Wales: History of the Welsh Songstress. I had a small grant from The Arts Council of Wales and visited 21 women who shared their story about their life of song and music. I shared this through a live show of songs and images, touring for audiences across Wales and through a book of the same title, which funnily enough, WH Smiths on line book store picked up last year via The Welsh Book Council.
Left: Grethe, Middle: Suzanne, Left: Emma
I was stood in the kitchen at Mandy's, isn't that where so many of us migrate to at a party, celebrating Grethe's 90th Birthday ... my friend Suzanne Hughes Owen and I decided to go for a walk. Mandy has over 100 acres at Morfa Isaf and the land tapers into the cliff edges. We decided we would walk down and watch the sunset. I had been talking to a fascinating woman from Newcastle Emlyn who owns a Crystal Shop, so I asked her if she would like to come on the walk with us. The 3 of us toddled off down the lane. I had no idea that we were embarking on what for me, would be life changing moments ...
Morfa Isaf Farm