The Ivors: A special day

Yesterday was my favourite day of the year … the Ivors.

It’s been my privilege to be involved in the production for a number of years and it’s always wonderful just to be in the room, let alone get to work on it. Awards shows often get a bad press and having watched many on TV over the years, I don’t think they make great television.

Apart from a couple years in its infancy, the Ivors has never been televised. As a result BASCA, which owns and runs the event, has sacrificed much potential PR profile and the Ivors remain largely a well-kept secret for the world outside the songwriting and composing community. However, it’s a sacrifice that should never be shirked, as it’s the intimacy of the event (if a show for 1,200 people can ever be called intimate) and the very lack of television cameras that keep it special.

Randy Newman, recipient of the Special International Award, said it was “inspirational” for there to be a whole day dedicated to a celebration of songwriting, while Songwriter of the Year Calvin Harris said it was the highlight of his career … and he’s had number ones in almost 30 countries.

One of the things that I find most gratifying about the Ivors is that it throws up endless connections, friendships and relationships that span generations. Marty Wilde presented the Ivor for Outstanding Achievement to Justin Haywood to complete a circle that started in the sixties when Haywood answered an advert in Melody Maker and ended up joining Marty’s band The Wilde Three. Noel Gallagher received his Outstanding Song Collection award from Ray Davies. Two absolute giants of British songwriting and as Davies pointed out, leaders of two rebellious bands and each having to deal with a brother in the group.

There was a kind of sibling connection between Chris Martin and Gavin Rossdale, as the Coldplay singer presented the Ivor for International Achievement to the Bush frontman. The friendship was there for all to see.

All around the room, old friendships were renewed. On my table was Vicki Wickham, former manager of Dusty Springfield and legendary producer of Ready, Steady, Go. Ray Davies came over to say hello, followed shortly by Peter Gabriel.

It was also a huge pleasure for me to meet the utterly delightful Nona Hendryx. It’s hard to explain the Ivors experience, but imagine being shut in a room with a good sprinkling of your heroes for company. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday in May.



Sliding Doors

I had lunch today with a friend who I used to do a lot of work with, but who I haven’t seen for almost 20 years.

There was much to catch up on – who was doing what, who had married who, and sadly, did you know so and so had died? One of the consequences of getting older is that your career sits in a broader context. We’d met when I played guitar in a production of Godspell he was directing. He went on to direct two shows for the youth theatre group that my dad ran, before moving into TV and video production and many other things.

I became a sound engineer and then after being made redundant and becoming a freelance composer, he was pivotal in providing jobs that got me started. Although you can never say how things would have turned out had we never met, it’s hard now to see an alternate course if he hadn’t given me a much appreciated leg-up in those early years.

As we reminisced, it seemed a different time back in the early eighties … or maybe it was just that we were younger and had no real experience of failure to limit us. Crazy ideas were had, they were put into action and to a greater or lesser degree, they worked. It was, we both agreed, a special time and a fun time.

Then we traced back to how we first met and it was one of those Sliding Doors moments that involved a mutual friend falling off a horse, not being able to do a production of Godspell that my dad was directing, hearing of another production once she’d recovered, auditioning and getting a part, the production being short of a guitarist, me going to a party at her house where I met the director, him asking me if I wanted to play in the show, me saying yes … and the rest is history.

So an absolutely pivotal period of my career can be traced back to an accidental fall from a horse. My friend said the same thing. The identity of the horse is lost to history, but it’s fascinating how one apparently small and unconnected event can have such a massive impact on the direction of people’s lives. It’s a good argument in favour of destiny. Or maybe when you examine any momentous outcome – meeting your husband or wife, getting a life-changing career break, finding your dream home – it can all be traced back to a random and improbable sequence of events.

Who knows where we’d all be if Barbie had decided not to go riding that day.