If you’ve been keeping up with us, you’ll know that we are celebrating togetherness by being back on the stage Friday 16th – Sunday 18th July with a live audience with ‘we used to be closer than this’, a cabaret of songs written by 8 talented writers from Hull and across the UK.
Not too long ago, we sent a brief to writers asking them to respond to the idea of coming together again through writing a music-led piece of writing which is celebratory, hopeful and challenging in equal measure. But what can you expect from each piece? We’ve asked our writers to tell us more about their song:
Use the arrows to scroll through all of our writer’s stories-behind-the-songs
Something Really Good’s About To Happen by Tom Wells
“My mate’s mum took some diet pills once that (it turned out, much to everyone’s surprise) were laced with speed. He asked her what it was like and she told him it felt, all the time, like something brilliant was about to happen. Which, I think anyway, is quite a helpful approach to have to life and the world and the future, especially at the moment. The sense that stuff’s about to change, to get better, to get fairer. So: it sounds a bit naff but what inspired the story behind my song is, um, hope.
“The song is about three people who are all on the cusp of something new in their lives. They’ve struggled a bit, but I think they’re all determined to make sure that, post-pandemic, the world is a bit fairer, kinder, and huggier than it has been in the last year and a half.
“It’s lovely to be making theatre again with Middle Child, who are my heroes and who have supported the Hull theatre community so much, through such a tough time. And it’s lovely to be in such a brilliant gang of artists – I can’t wait to see and hear what everyone has come up with.”
The Biggest Bestest Summer Of Our Lives by Kobby Taylor
“The Biggest Bestest Summer Of Our Lives is really about a mum, a dad, a daughter and the pandemic and how the members of the family navigate the difficulties of lockdown, whilst trying to remain positive. The title may suggest it’s the happiest song in the world, but actually, the song is about hope. Hoping that this summer is amazing is what is holding this family together as lockdown has been tough on all of them.“I think my writing tries to touch on the fact that this could be a hugely positive summer when restrictions are lifted and the masks come off. It tries to show that parents and families have done their absolute best to remain positive despite the very negative nature of the pandemic.“It’s been so, so important for me to be back in the room writing and playing with Middle Child. It’s no secret they have guided me from a complete novice, to having the opportunity to act and compose music and now the opportunity to write a song has allowed me to extend my experience. The rehearsal room felt so safe and so covid secure that it felt ‘normal’. Obviously, there were numerous restrictions on contact, but everyone has rigidly stuck to the rules and it allowed us to create an amazing cabaret show about connection.“I wouldn’t say any further reading is required after watching my song, but certainly connecting with your family, household and close circle is so important. Just having brutally honest conversations about how we feel pre-, mid- and post-pandemic can certainly be the best therapy. The aim isn’t to try and ‘fix’ our problems; it’s merely to listen and understand, as in many cases, simply understanding is enough to heal.”
Lockdown Baby by Abbi Greenland (RashDash)
“Helen and I (RashDash) both had babies during the last year and have been negotiating lockdown pregnancies, births and babies. My babe was born before Christmas when we had lockdowns two and three and we couldn’t get together with friends and family. Since we’ve been able to see friends again and touch friends again, it’s been incredible to introduce babe to his family – those that he’s related to by blood and those that will just always be in his life.
“The day he met my oldest friend for the first time – having only facetimed and waved from a distance for months – was a very special day and I wanted to write about that and celebrate it. This song is about the first time my oldest friend got to hold my new baby for the first time. Just a really important moment that we had to be so patient and wait so long for.
“I went to university in Hull with Middle Child and we were all really close and made a lot of work together while we were studying, and a bit after we graduated too. It’s really special to be working with the company again, and to be making work for a Hull audience.”
Am I Ready (Steady Go) by Tabby Lamb
“Back in March 2020, when covid first hit, I was about to go on a big holiday for my 30th – visiting friends in America, who I haven’t seen for years, and of course that trip was cancelled. But I still spent most of the pandemic planning dream trips to far off places. It was my escape from the monotony of lockdown. I wanted to imagine a time when I felt safe enough to travel and the horrors of the past 18 months were long behind us.
“This song is all about new experiences, something none of us have been lucky enough have for the past year and a half. It’s about feeling safe enough to travel and explore a brand new location. It’s about having the option to go out or stay in.
“Middle Child are one of my favourite companies of all time, so to work with them at all is an honour – but to work with them on a project of this scale, with [pay what you can] tickets is even more special. It’s such an accessible project and after a year plus of online work making accessibility key, it’s great to see Middle Child continue that.”
I bet that we look bad on the dancefloor By Jay Mitra
“I had a literal nightmare during the pandemic about being at a club and it being incredibly awkward due to everyone forgetting how to dance during lockdown. Isolation has caused a lot of people’s social skills to suffer – particularly those who, like myself, have been shielding for over a year due to underlying health conditions.
“When I had my first public appearance after isolating I felt hypersensitive to my surroundings; it was a struggle engaging with people again. After speaking to other people who endured the same level of isolation, I quickly realised I am not alone in my anxiety of having to relearn in-person communication skills. Slowly but surely, we will have to recharge our social batteries.
“Clubs have been the last on the agenda to reopen and I know a lot of young people in particular are looking forward to this restriction being lifted. I miss the reckless and euphoric unity of dancers in a club, the feeling of being surrounded by strangers yet simultaneously feeling connected through music, the immense support from random drunk girls in the club toilets – I miss it all. I’m so excited to come together with people in clubs and re-emerge as a terrible, yet incredibly happy dancer. I want to be just another grinning face on a sticky dancefloor.
“This is such a fantastic opportunity and I’m so happy I got a chance to voice some of the anxieties a lot of people are probably feeling right now – especially those with disabilities, who have had limited contact with the outside world out of fear of contracting a virus that could potentially kill them.
“‘We used to be closer than this’ is an opportunity to voice a certain revival of culture. I used the brief to explore my personal experiences of suffering socially and my anxieties surrounding returning to relative normalcy. Though a lot of us will struggle in adapting again after long periods of isolation, being able to see our friends and family again will give many of us the strength to keep pushing through.
“Hannah Hodgson (a fellow Writing Squad member) is a brilliant poet whose work surrounding her own experiences with disability are particularly important to read right now. I have become enthralled with her work recently. It’s witty, honest, provocative, and she truly is a poet to keep an eye on. As restrictions lift, many people will soon forget about those who still have to shield but Hannah’s poetry is truly unforgettable. If anyone else is feeling isolated or anxious about the world slowly reverting back to ‘normalcy’, Hannah’s poetry is a great source of solace, comfort and reflection.”
Now’s The Time For Dancing by Leo Skilbeck
“I wanted the song to be rooted in cabaret and queer forms and also to be something accessible and uplifting. I was aiming for pride meets Eurovision meets cabaret down your local. I wanted to write something that didn’t shy away from challenges life throws up, but also something that was fun.
“I imagined Love, Hindsight, Envy, Death, Pride and Hope and they arrived as these very rounded and very queer entities – Pride on a motorbike and Hope in the sidecar clutching champagne; Death singing by the bins; Envy with his cheesy chips; and I imagined this big party where it’s possible to let them all be free, to let them all go.
“I was really pleased to be asked to write a song for Middle Child and for this in particular. Cabaret and queer performance are fantastic ways of bringing people together, finding community and having a laugh, which let’s face it, we could all do with.”
FIRST KISS by Natasha Brown
“I got into a relationship a few months before the first lockdown and it was such awkward timing. Here you are in the honeymoon period, where you desperately want to spend every time with this new, interesting person and then – BOOM! – just like that, you can’t be in the same room as them anymore. That situation inspired this song: what if two people met right before lockdown and they never even got to have their first kiss? It’d suck! But the anticipation of that kiss would keep you going.
“The song takes place in a nightclub, where there are loads of other people around, the music is loud, everyone is dancing. It’s an experience many of us haven’t had over the past year. An actual nightclub!
“It’s important to me [to be a part of this show] for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this is my first time being commissioned to write a song (just call me Beyoncé now) which was a really enjoyable experience. It’s always rewarding to be pushed as a writer. And, secondly, I really love the idea. It’s important to cultivate as much collective joy as possible coming out of this pandemic. It’s been a rough time, to say the least, and people need opportunities to reconnect.”
Now/Then by Angelo Irving
“Now then is a phrase that powerfully reminds me of Hull. A term of greeting and one that because of the pandemic, I hadn’t heard for a long time. We’ve lost a lot during the last year and a half; the ability to hear such a small but beautiful phrase inspired me to write the song. It took me a while to think about what coming together again meant to me and what the new normal would look like.
“The more I thought, the more I realised that one of the beautiful things about reconnecting with the people was the chance to tell new stories and reminisce over old ones. Being with people that you love is therapy and now/then explores how those that love you can heal you.
“Like many people, the last year and a half has afforded me a lot of time to reflect and one of the things I have tried committing to is being around people that nourish me. Working with Middle Child is always a highlight and working on this show, in particular, has been a real honour. It put me in a creative space where I could respond to the events that have changed the world in a creative way. That has been healing for me and, I hope, will provide something to those that watch it.
“I have so many influences. The words of Kae Tempest; the work of local artist Emma Crick; the music of Chiedu Oraka. I wrote this at the same time as reading The Secret Commonwealth, the fifth book in the His Dark Materials series and the lengths that people go to to reconnect was a true inspiration”