Songs; writing them, recording them, performing them...

For me, writing songs is quite a different process to writing novels or plays. Song writing is something I've done a lot of over the years, with varying degrees of competence, ever since I was a teenager. A self-taught guitar player and an entirely untutored vocalist - in the gravel-toned/folk/blues shouter tradition - I've been part of a couple of local bands playing mainly original material. Formed from more or less the same small group of friends and family, in varying numbers and combinations, we went by many names, including Vicious Bootlace in the late 1970s, The Bare Bones in the 1990s and Siskin Brace in the 2010s. I wrote a large number of songs, either alone or in collaboration with other band members, which were then played by these outfits. I was quite prolific at times, though I must admit quantity tended to trump quality. Much of this early material was never decently recorded and so has been lost to memory (mercifuly so, in some cases).

Pictured as a sweaty youth in 1980, at a church hall gig in Woodford.

All these musical ventures remained unsullied by anything so vulgar as commercial success, and as the twentieth century came to a close, and then on throughout the following decade, I didn't do much in the way of music at all. My guitars gathered dust. My fingertips and my vocal chords grew soft.

Then, in 2011, encouraged by changes in technology that now made it possible to record music at an affordable cost and from the comfort of your own home, I made a tentative return to song-writing and playing. Nowadays I'm enjoying writing songs again, though I now come up with new material at a much slower rate. Occasionally I perform these songs, at open mic nights etc. Some examples are available to listen to on a Soundcloud account called Open Cage (

Playing an open mic night in Heaton Moor, 2019

My writing process has changed somewhat as time has passed. I care a lot more about the lyrics than I ever used to. And I've been working on some songs for years now, but I'm still not content to call them finished. I enjoy the home-recording process, but will often change a song if I come to play it live, altering the rhythm or structure to make it work better as a solo performance. I am still frustrated by my limitations as a muscian and an instrumentlist, which are legion.

Jutland Sound art work (painting: Jo Bloor)

As well as songs, I also like to write music and create the sound for the various theatre and film projects I'm involved in. Examples include the song Garrison Town, written for the play Night on the Field of Waterloo, performed at the 24/7 fringe festival, Manchester, in 2013, and Jack Cornwell, from the song collection Jutland Sound, part of a project marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. Working with the oboist Jennifer Murray, I also recorded The Flower Maker's Walk, the theme/walk-in music for our 2018 fringe theate production The Flower Maker's Tale. All these pieces can be found at the Near Run Thing Soundcloud account (

With members of Near Run Thing, playing songs from Jutland Sound at Jack Cornwell Park, Leyton, in 2016.

Go back