I run with wolves (and how far I’ve come)

I grew up in a mixed heritage working class family, surrounded by the belief that music was not a realistic career and for years this belief shaped my life and decisions (though not always my spare time). I felt empty but generally accepted it. Then while working in retail, in my 20s, I started a bedroom project with my cousin just for fun and we ended up getting a youth project grant to record an album! But the studio went bust and the funders went out of business. We lost the album we’d nearly finished and I thought that was my dream was over, feeling like it was a sign to give up.

A few years later my nan saw an advert for a community newsletter job and I ended up working at a local community media centre on a youth magazine. Some years later the company started more arts projects and a music project and built a music studio in the back of the centre. I started meeting other artists and musicians and being asked to help on tracks (’cause they heard I used to sing). I started getting dragged to gigs (despite my fears) to sing for rappers and DJs and they encouraged me to get back to making my own music.

I spent 10 years juggling community work by day, writing and recording more and more at evenings and weekends (around having a family) writing and gigging the night scene in Bristol – and sometimes there was overlap like community festivals and creative projects at my local community centre.

Slowly I began getting paid gigs and commissions, local radio play and media/city recognition and even an arts council grant and then recommended for a composing project with schools. I’d also just got a long freelance gig running a network of community creatives, advocating for community-led culture and the idea that an artist can come from anywhere.

I’m now a freelance creative, doing a mix of songwriting commissions and contracts and performances, public speaking on community led action and creativity, and looking forward to more projects that help others be creative both for the joy and the potential careers.

I feel like I’ve reached both a milestone and a point to grow to the next stage in my career and life. So for International Women’s Month I’ve released a new song (today in fact! March 10th 2023). This song signifies for me the moment I felt I had become a woman after ten years of making music. It’s called Run With Wolves and is inspired by the book Woman Who Run With The Wolves and my friend Catherine.

I #runwithwolves because I run free, I follow my heart, I love the night sky, I protect my pack. Do you #runwithwolves ? and why?

Also available on many of the usual music sites – some links here

Art & Culture – who says what’s good and what’s worth funding?

KALA CHNG and fan dancers performing at Knowle West Fest by Tanya Hazell

Recently I went to an online conference about culture (run by The Centre for Cultural Value) and it got me thinking again about who decides what art is and what’s valued. Why is it that streetdance doesn’t get as much funding as ballet? My talented friends at Angels Dance Academy, who started just down the road from me, have a world championship winning crew Dark Angels for example, but have never got any arts funding. ( I checked!)

Maybe the decision-makers have a different background and therefore taste. (I’m drawn to street dance and urban music ’cause I grew up with that around me, so I appreciate it way more.)

If you work in ‘the arts’ you hear this old argument that community art isn’t high quality. Maybe it’s just not financially backed!?

Anyway after some various chats in the conference I was asked to write a reflection blog for the organisers. Please do check it out in full here: Art – who holds the power? It has to change…