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Orlando Gough and the Wednesdays

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Birth of a song; the Rosetta Life's artists diary

Birth of a song

Working with the Wednesdays

photo of ChrisJanuary 2005. I'm 60 years old and my 4th child was born last week. It's intense witnessing each end of life so directly - my work at the hospice and this lovely little baby of ours. Her name is Grace.

January 2005. Today I show the Wednesday Group - aka The Wednesdays - photos of Grace. There's much cooing and aaahing over the pictures. I've noticed that babies transform the atmosphere of hospices. Concerns about dying are shoved aside by energised delight in innocent life force.

I've been working with Wednesdays on and off for four years now. They are mostly, but not exclusively, women in their forties and early fifties who meet once a week to laugh and cry over their worries and concerns. Most have cancer. A few have MS.

photo of The Wednesday GroupIt's in the nature of a hospice that the faces in a group like this change over time. The same people may come to the group for several years but the phrase 'life-threatening illness' means exactly what it infers and some weeks a familiar face is no longer there. There's a quiet introspectiveness when this happens, a mixture of sadness and the realisation that next time 'this could be me.'

But everyone's still here today. It's one of those high-spirited afternoons when people are cocking a snook at death and telling jokes. And I'm going to propose that we write a song together.

Previously I've made two hilarious short films with this group entitled 32 Things you need to Know and 24 Things that would Really Help. The creative process entailed sitting in the group with my laptop and asking them to come up with as many things that they could think of that a partner, doctor, politician, child, parent, or whoever, needed to know or that would really help in relation to their illness. In each case, what they said became the basis of a simple film script that they themselves, with a little direction, could perform. The results were a quick fire sequence of direct addresses to camera by each person along the lines of - you need to know... this... this.., and this.

Today I'm going to use the same approach, but for the lyrics of a song. What the song is about will be determined by what is preoccupying them. Today the chat is turning on carers. I bring out my laptop and listen, and type, now and again intervening to probe a turn of phrase that feels right for the line of a song. At the end of session I read back to them what they've said.

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