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Darwin Song Project - Jez Lowe

Mike Harding | 16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

My guest bloggers for the next couple of weeks are songwriters who took part in the recent Darwin Song Project, a songwriting retreat where eight prominent folk artists got together to write songs inspired by the life and work of Charles Darwin. You'll be able to hear interviews from the songhouse as well as some of the newly composed songs on my programme on Wednesday 8th April.

Jez Lowe writes:

The Darwin Song Project was something of a first for me. Previous 'write to order' commissions that I've done, like the BBC Radio Ballads in 2006 and the East Durham 'Banners' project way back in 1994, were much looser and less constrained time-wise, not to mention being somewhat more angled to my usual style in terms of the leftish, working class subject matter. Collaborating with other writers is also unusual for me, with only my fellow Bad Pennies and my Canadian mate James Keelaghan being regular partners at the pen. And now here I was, mingling with some pretty heavy hitters, holed up 'Big Brother' style in remote rural luxury in Shropshire, with the shadow of one of mankind's major historical figures looming over us. No pressure there then!

It ended up being a fascinating and enjoyable week, not without its moments of self-doubt and worry for many of us, but on a social level, a pretty smooth and fun-filled way to spend a week getting over jet-lag after two months in Australia. Moreover, it was fascinating watching other writers, ostensibly in the same field as, and yet stylistically quite different from me, and how they approached this mysterious songwriting process. It was quite a thrill, sitting face to face over a blank sheet with some of these people, and tempting out the words from each other without stepping on any emotional or professional toes.

How good the results were is up to others to decide, but I'm certainly proud of every song that I was involved with, and charmed and inspired by the ones that I was not. I also hope that I've made some new friends among my ex-housemates, and that liberation from our week of solitude doesn't mean an end to collaborating with them altogether.

I must also say that since I first played at Shrewsbury Folk Festival with the Bad Pennies two years ago, it has become my favourite event of its kind, and a perfect place to reunite with the Darwin gang, writers and organisers, next August.

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