Devon-based arts charity Villages in Action has partnered with Lucy Bell and Naomi Turner of Documental Productions to create a unique and joyous songwriting project for those living along or near the A382.
The project brings together a diverse group of participants from various community hubs, including Community Links in Okehampton, Made Well C.I.C. in Hatherleigh, Dunsford Memory Cafe, writers in Chudleigh, and Riversedge Court retirement apartments in Okehampton.
Love and letters
The Small is Enough EP started with writing workshops where people living off and around the A382 wrote letters expressing their love for where they lived, letters of protest, and letters of reassurance to themselves when they were younger. Songwriter Megan Taper and Documental’s associate composer Ben Glass then worked on lyrics created by writer Lucy Bell from the participants’ stories.
A small community choir was established in Bovey Tracey, and separate singing sessions were held at the Dunsford Memory Café and Made Well C.I.C. The participants learnt harmonies arranged by Megan Taper and Ben Glass, before performing the songs at a professional recording session at Exeter Phoenix. The group included retired teachers and a person who had coordinated Bovey Tracey’s volunteer response to Covid.
When the creative team were looking for the right style for the album they hit upon the country music genre. Country songs from Johnny Cash to Loretta Lyn are songs of survival from remote rural places. This tradition felt like the best fit for stories about individual courage and shared local pride. Ben Glass accompanied the songs with bluegrass instrumentation.
Lucy Bell, of Documental Theatre said: “I am so grateful to the people I’ve met up and down the A382 this last year: from the woman in her 90s who recalled cycling hell-for-leather to a shelter in the Blitz, to a farmer’s widow at the Memory Café who recalled how her farmhouse once filled with guests. We have tried to weave all this life into the EP of community-sung songs we’re creating.”
The power of song and creativity
The project aimed to bring people together and strengthen community ties through the power of song and creativity. The resulting EP is a celebration of community and the power of music to bring people together, and a reminder that, even in the face of challenges, small communities can do big things.
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