Written by Dick Bonham 04/12/2015
I’m sitting at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley. The sound of a man singing a new song fills the air.
Across the UK there are thousands of people who have stopped playing. There are guitars propped up in bedrooms that haven’t been strummed in years. Trumpets that got packed away after the brass band played its last gig. Drum kits taking up too much space in garages.
The new show explores why we stop playing, and what it might take to get us started again.
As part of the development for the show, the team is spending a week in residence at Sunny Bank Mills
, working in partnership with Trouble at Mill
, who regularly run a pop-up night of theatre and music there.
As well as working on the show, they’re inviting members of the public to join in public workshops, at which they’ll be making music and collecting stories and ideas that will make their way into the show and players of any age are welcome to the sessions.
The idea for the show came out of the experience of it director, Annie Rigby. Aged 18, she became an ex-accordion player. Ever since, she has been fascinated by conversations with other people who have stopped playing their instruments. She was particularly struck by talking with an ex-violin player who got so frustrated by not being able to play as well as he wanted, that it became too painful to play at all. He left his job in a professional orchestra, and has never taken his violin out of its case since.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Alongside such poignant tales, Annie wants to explore why playing is something that is often only encouraged in children. At a young age we are often encouraged to play, sing, draw, write and tell stories. But there comes a point when we stop being encouraged. Or we decide we’re not good enough. Or we find it hard to justify the time.
One of the questions the new production asks is how we can reclaim music as something joyful. How can we make space for it in our lives and give ourselves permission to play again?
I’m lucky enough to be spending part of this week with them – and it’s sounding pretty good so far. The show is being made over the next 6 months and will premiere in Sunderland next summer, before coming back to Farsley in the autumn, with its own community band made up of ex-players. If what I’ve heard so far is any indication, it’s going to be pretty special.