I visited Areley Kings, near Stourport at the far side of Worcestershire yesterday. A gorgeous green sunlit rural drive through Lower Broadheath, Hallow, Holt Heath and Shrawley ending at Areley’s beautiful Church House.
Muscian and poet Heather Wastie, with her husband, Geoff Cox, a counsellor, hosted “Psychosound” – an exploration of links between sound and thought. I feared I might be way out of my comfort zone, as my musical ability is zilch and was last exercised in youth theatre in my teens but Heather is used to teaching mixed ability groups and her “instruments” were a rainbow selection of sound-making pads and beams.
Each pad was like a giant, brightly coloured piano note. These forced us to “play” in more ways than one. From a cacophony at first, we moved towards some kind of group performance – first of “Sunrise” then of “The River Severn” and “A Journey”. The pads could be pressed by foot or hand (or teeth, Heather cheerfully added); the beams invited dance – or as little as a finger movement (heck – could be fun on some ruder poems? I didn’t think of that!). The sounds emerging from each device were pre-programmed for the day and varied from single notes via piano phrases to electronic sounds – huge scope for fun.
Who else was there? Ah, well that’s secret: not quite a superinjunction (else I couldn’t blog about the event) but, as we might bare our souls in our session on what inspires – or blocks – our creativity, we agreed that we would only mention our own feelings. Anyway, the group vibe, a little shy at first, soon warmed up and I felt very safe and as though I were amongst friends, even though Heather was the only person I’d met before (very briefly).
After our picnic lunches we returned for a thought-provoking discussion about how we’d responded to the morning’s session and what creativity – and, in some cases, performance or recognition – means to us. Geoff exudes warmth. (No, that’s not the right phrase but I can’t think of how to put it better). He encourages others to talk, steering discussion gently on track.
And I did do a bit of soul-baring: I talked about re-inventing myself for the second time in my life. As a child I was painfully shy. In my mid-teens I discovered drama, through a school production of Twelfth Night, and learned I could cover the shyness, could deliberately set out to make others at ease and not think about my own anxiety so much. Over a couple of years I went from shy, socially hopeless nerd (always picked last for anything) to girl about town, with cool boyfriend(s) and party invitations. University was FUN.
There was a price. For a while I wasn’t sure who I was, if I were being true to the me that’s deep inside or if I’d lost myself. Possibly I didn’t find myself again until my husband rescued me, giving me a safe harbour. (How many metaphors can I use – badly – in one blog post? You’ll just have to forgive me: this is personal stuff and I’m not finding it easy to express.) Having been reasonably easy as myself since my twenties, I am now exploring beyond my comfort zone again, becoming a poet and even venturing on stage to perform my own words. So it was good to discuss my demons – feelings of inadequacy and guilt (even disgust) at “showing off” – and discover I am not alone.
I came away feeling calm, less anxious about where my poetry might go and with a little more insight into how and why I create.