the space behind the whatnot

Who would have thought being creative was so much fun?

I who prevaricate at the drop of a teaspoon and find myself downstairs making toast before I know what I’m doing, suddenly find myself glued to the computer, writing till 3 in the morning and cooing over video footage I’m sticking together in a happy haze, unable to remember when I shot it.

It all started when Rolf Hind (three-handed pianist… or so it sounds) who I met doing the Young Musician of the Year phoned me and asked if I wanted to do something with spnm. Flattered by the thought and the coffee I got bought – I went home and thought about it. Picked two composers from the spnm shortlist and then set to work. It’s like real creativity. Just how I imagine it. Catching the train to Cambridge to sketch out ideas. Meeting in the members bar of the Tate Modern to discuss staging. Rehearsing with singers. Writing stuff and hating it. Writing it again and rather liking it. Coming back two weeks later and hating it again.

Highlights: filming with Jeremy in his backgarden in the idyllic Cambridgeshire countryside in the freakishly hot April weather, just as the light was fading. Being at City Lit during their Deaf Day and being electrified by the vibrancy of Deaf culture and having to look at people properly. (Who in London ever really looks at people?) When your signing – you have to be seen. Hearing the wall of sound Tazul imperturbably created from the four singers while wading through extreme jetlag in Hackney. Sneaking a peek at Wiltons Music Hall one Saturday evening in the dark. Can a venue be more atmospheric?

Meditation, babies, deaf-sign-language, birdsong, water and sound. Two pieces. One performance. One hour.


  1. dougie

    May 24, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting piece of work… I’ll be up a mountain in Oban but hope it all goes well for you.

  2. Kelly

    May 26, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    How unfortunate that you’re such a far swim for me, because it sounds fascinating. There’s nothing like that creative space one is lucky enough to fall in to only once in a while (at least for me).

  3. Sean

    May 27, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    What a fantastic opportunity. Writing something like that is hard enough, but getting it performed is even harder. Good luck for the concert. Wish I could hear it.

  4. Alex

    May 27, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    OMG! not really related to this post its justt he most
    recent one! ive been reading your blog and you seem to have
    the most amazing and enviable life! you wouldnt expect it
    from someone on daytime tv imho! not to stereotype or cause offense! Darn and blast! im in spitalfields on the 15th!

  5. Sally

    May 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Actually it is British Sign Language not deaf sign language

    Glad you enjoyed the experience!

  6. Pawel

    May 30, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Hi Alistair! This comment will be ‘a bit’ off-topic:)

    Just few words from your fan from Poland ehehe:) I don’t know If you know but many programmes presented by you are currently being aired in Poland. When I zap the channels on the telly, it is very likely
    that I will see you. I sometimes hesitate whether to open the fridge;)
    No but honestly, I really like your style, end even when there’s that terribly boring “Cash in the attic” (antiques? gosh) I think to myself, let’s at least watch this nice lad:) who pretends he’s actually interested. House Doctor is fun tho. You’ll love the Polish name “zaklinacze wnetrz”:DDDD,programy.html,1,1357338,programy.html

    So anyway, I was just thinking, I’ll have a look if
    Wikipedia has anything to say about you, and voila: there yu are, and not only you have been teaching English in Gdansk, but you are also (as I suspected) gay! (I’m gay too btw) Gosh, I do have a gaydar I thought to myself:) Surprising for me was the information, that Gdansk was the place where you learned to accept your sexuality… Poland? Naaah… And in those days… Did Sopot’s Enzym exist then?:D Now, as you probably know the subject of sexuality has become the focus of the political
    disputes. Gay people actually only started existing in the
    public debate

    I’m involved with an LGBT organisation here in PL (
    and (i guuess you are a busy person, but)
    if it was interesting for you,
    as a gay person, ans as a Buddhist
    maybe you’d like to do a workshop in Poland, or a speech sometime
    on coming-out, or accepting oneself etc.
    you can be an example for the younger generations…


  7. Peter Kay

    June 10, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Interesting foray into the creative world, but what do you actually mean by creativity? Is creativity, to you, just working within the arts or can it be applied to everything. Members of the world of business would tell you that we can come up with creative solutions to problems (although they tend to express it by using dreadful terms like “Working outside the box” and “Pushing the envelope”).

    I subscribe to Margaret Boden’s idea that there are actually two main types of creativity – one I like to call “Personal creativity” – something new for the person who creates something which they have not had experience of previously, and “Historical creativity” – something which is brand new to the world. Do I lean to these ideas because I have long been involved in the world of arts education?

  8. Valerie W.

    June 10, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Break A Leg tonight. Have a great time. You’re always
    reaching out to something new.

  9. elizabeth edmunds

    June 21, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Everything I have heard of yours, and about yours and from people who talk about you says that you listen deeply. Listening to the silence from which all things comes, connecting deeply with it and then bringing music or words into being seems to be what you are about. I love the sound of it. Do you think you or your friends would be interested in joining a worldwide wave of stillness on November 28th. If you would, please try or e mail me on this e mail

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