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Remember when?

My lovely friend and mother of 3 gorgeous children recently said to me, ‘Julie, I can smell my old life’. I get a whiff every now and again but no strong sense, just yet. I had prepared myself for the imminent return to work, with a heavy heart it has to be said. Nevertheless I was, very well prepared for the earmarked 4 projects, but with 3 out of the 4 being cut for relating to funding and over spending the return was not to be. A hard hit on so many levels; professionally, financially and personally. Preparing to leave my 2 very small children required a lot of work. Having recently moved home and county, new child-minders had to be tested. Months of drip feeding in our new and wonderful nanny, felt as though it was in vain.  I have been in this game for 15 years but this hit hardest. I have somehow managed to secure other projects locally and further afield, and am looking forward to the new challenges ahead. Since these series of stressful events, I have found myself asking how I, and others like me, have managed to survive in ‘the game’ for so long? How can we, as community musicians and freelancing music educators, earn a living to justify our chosen career path? This has happened in the past, and often I would have followed the funding, just up and left; Liverpool, Belfast, Sydney, North America, Newcastle,Dublin, Galway…Limerick. So, challenges anew, and that is ok in many ways has encouraged me to look at my work from an other perspective, rethink what it is I do and why.

My husband and I got out to a gig in UCH this week, our good friends, The Henry Girls,  were opening for Clannad. We were late and Lorna spotted is. She proceeded to talk about the projects that she and I had done together over the years in Limerick and Belfast, I had almost forgotten. It was good to be reminded, my heart and confidence lifted in that moment. She then went on to tell the following story, which is true, had Lorna not been with me that day nobody would believe me! On a stunning summer’s day in 2009 Lorna and I had some community music work in Limerick city with probation services and NOMAD. That morning we went to Moyross and recorded some songs my music students had written and then onto UL where we were to collect drums for a NOMAD workshop close by. We were lucky to get parking in the Concert Hall(Foundation Building) car park.

concert hall

Not a bad place for a dip, if you can fork out the 100euro fine. Perhaps he had pull!

As we passed the gorgeous water feature, we noticed that a rather happy looking man with an excellent beard had stripped off and hopped into the far end. We had lunch keeping an eye on this guy splashing away outside! As we passed again, there was a very officious looking woman speaking to our new, free spirited friend, we guessed he was in trouble and off we went. Upon our return from the said workshop, samba drums in hand, we kept an eye out for himself and sure enough there he was but who had joined him and washing his beard for him, only the officious looking lady herself! The pair them chatting away and their arms round one another. Remember when? I do indeed, it is time to remember some more and get going on the Clare Music Generation’s Early Year’s pilot project starting next week. Hup ya boya ya!

Categories: Community Music
  1. KAREN SMYTH
    November 1, 2014 at 12:49

    Hi Julie

    This is just how I felt when I tried to balance being a Mum, Wife and free-lance Community Musician.

    I was so passionate about my art form but it was beaten out of me by various people, agencies and events. I had to find another way to work and get money in regularly to pay the bills. I was fortunate in 2010 to be offered a job as a full time Community Arts Officer for a local council and since then even though there are still many hurdles to jump, it is something else to be paid on time. It always took the shine off the good CM work done having to wait 12 weeks for your money after projects. Kathryn Deane’s words of ‘Karen, remember you are making a difference here’ kept me going through many a crisis.

    So here I am 4 years later loving my job, a lovely mix of facilitation, event planning, programming across all art forms and coaching young people who want to enter the ‘Arts’.

    Do we tell them the truth? Even my daughter wants to study music. On one hand I am elated that she feels the same way I do about music but on the other hand it terrifies me that she would want to go down this road. I have been there and it isn’t pretty.

    My current job is a joy. I have a great team at my back and we support each other through all the ups and downs, each day I feel blessed but still hanging over our heads are the funding cuts and the chance that someone may not see the value any more in what we do. The great thing is I know that I am more fortunate than most because of the music. I could go back, perform and facilitate. I guess it is my back-up plan.

    Other ambitions I had prior the Community Arts Officer role (CM research etc.) have been shelved for now but I do plan to return when my kids are up a bit. I have so many questions now. I am trying to narrow them down. I also have a new perspective on the whole thing.
    I look forward to the day when I can find the answers. But for now. It’s about my wee family and getting on the work.

    Julie, you probably have been doing this but it is useful to think about other ways to work it in with your family. In Ireland, because we are such a small country, I think the key is to be diverse in your skills and flexible in your working. I know you are Julie. You are a talented self-starter so there will be work out there but it may not directly CM work.

    For example tonight, I am managing a Bronagh Gallagher gig as part of a Community Music Festival. I will be doing all my usual organising stuff but will also get to hang out musicians and tech so the craic will be mighty. There will be at least 200 people in that audience will know what CM is by the end of the gig because I will be promoting MADD etc. also Hopefully a couple will join up for some projects. RESULT.

    So that’s me for now Chum. Keep er’ lit as they say up North.

    Email me. We should talk.

    X Karen

  2. November 1, 2014 at 22:28

    Keep her Lit is right Karen! Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, they resonate and knowing wonderful and fellow, female community musicians have been through it and out the other side is very encouraging. The autonomy of what we do has never ever been so stark for me as of late, but I’ll get there. Yes, let’s get together soon and chat…
    Oh, I still have that Soundlines polo shirt, I’m keeping it 🙂
    J xx

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