For when things start to feel a little bit bleak, playwright Tom Wells has assembled a mix to remind us where to look to find some hope for a better future.
The air is becoming crisper and colder once again as the seasons begin to change, and yet the world can somehow still feel stuck in the challenges we face.
It doesn’t need specifying what it is we have been through, are going through, or the future that we see encroaching when we turn on the news – we are all familiar with it. But perhaps something we forget to do sometimes is see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Starting next week, Tom will once again be leading the Writers’ Group for us here at Middle Child, a free introduction to playwriting open to residents of Hull and East Riding who are new to the craft.
He has been leading the group since 2018, which sees a new cohort every year find their voices aided by his guidance and knowledge on playwriting. We think he kind of knows what he’s talking about.
This mix will hopefully find you in the right place, and, in Tom’s own words, give you hope for a good dance, to fall in love, for political change or for a better world.
Which song on the tape is most important to you and why?
For my fifteenth birthday my Dad got me the album Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. It was a really special gift. The melodies were gentle but soaring, like seabirds; the lyrics were quiet and poetic, like haikus; the cover was grey and full of knitwear, like my wardrobe. I think all of the songs on it are beautiful, but The Only Living Boy In New York really spoke to me at the time. Partly because the first word of the first verse is, um, ‘Tom’, and partly because it talks about a way of being in the world that is quite simple and quite celebratory. It is the first song that I properly loved, from the bottom of my heart, and opened the door to lots more. Especially once I got the confidence to look for them a bit, and realised you could borrow CDs from upstairs at the library. For that reason, I think it’s the most important – it was a sort of beginning, an open door, and it led to all the other songs on this mixtape.
How does the theme of hope tend to appear in your writing?
I think it’s just people doing their best, really. Not giving up. Trying, even though sometimes things are hard. Being funny and kind and resilient. That sort of thing.
What do you turn to when you are in need of inspiration?
Cups of tea. People-watching. A good dance. (For which I think Good As Hell by Lizzo is a lovely accompaniment)
How do you incorporate themes like hopefulness into workshops like the Writers’ Group?
I think writing a play just is a hopeful thing. You write it and fingers crossed it makes the world a bit better. And the process, too, is sort of hope-in-action. You write a first draft, show it to some thoughtful people who help you see ways it might say the things you hope it’ll say or show the stuff you hope it’ll show a bit clearer, a bit bolder, a bit swifter; you go home and work on it some more so the second draft’s a bit better, and gradually it starts to take shape – it’s a wonky shape, but it’s magic and sparky, full of spirit and bits of your heart. So going from the seed of an idea to your first play being performed in front of people just is really hopeful. I think so, anyway.
What is the most rewarding thing about leading the Writers’ Group?
Getting to see the things people write, the stories they’ve got to tell, that nobody else could, and to help those stories into the world a bit, is a proper, proper privilege.
What is the experience you try to create for participants of Writers’ Group?
I think in a really simple way, we just want them to feel able to have a go at writing their first play. We give them some tools to help with that, and also do our best to make a supportive community of people who are learning together too. All trying stuff out. Sometimes the stuff you try out will be brilliant – wahey – sometimes it’ll be a disaster – no biggie: you’ll know for next time. We love it when somebody figures out how to say the thing they want to say, with warmth and wit and a proper urgency. But we also flipping love mistakes. It means you’re trying stuff, new stuff, not being predictable or timid or boring. And then (fingers crossed) you can just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, have another go. That’s being a writer. (I think, anyway)
What is on thing that gives you hope right now?
People. (Just the good ones though, obvs).
The Middle Child Mixtape is a monthly Spotify playlist compiled by Middle Child artists, company members, staff and collaborators. Subscribe to the playlist to hear a fresh mix every month.