The buzz of expectation
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Musicians: Arthur Lea (piano) Ben Hazleton (bass) Nat Keen (guitar) Tanya Cracknell (violin)
Today’s blog comes for the pen of Tanya Cracknell. Tanya has been a close friend of The Spitz for many years as a performer, administrator and fundraiser. She took a short hiatus in which she established herself as - The Grime Violinist - where she continues to collaborate with MCs and producers in the grime scene as a writer and recording artist, as well as performing for music videos, brand collaborations and live shows. Tanya has now returned to work with The Spitz and we’re very happy to have her back with us.
I’d been living vicariously through The Spitz Instagram throughout lockdown so was delighted to be back in the Bridgeside Lodge garden in person on Wednesday.
As it started to feel that we're past the worst of what 2020 brought and with the Bridgeside Lodge community able to start looking forward after a long and difficult Winter, manager Fatma Makalo wanted to acknowledge the hard work of her wonderful team with a party in the garden. The weather was improving and it was time for a BBQ and some good music.
Despite not kicking off until 2pm, there was a palpable sense of excitement all morning. Residents began to arrive in the garden, finding the best view of the stage. There was a real buzz of expectation. One of our usual collaborators - resident JS - was one of these. He is our resident percussionist, with a real love of music and a great sense of rhythm. Early in the session, he was offered a djembe-style drum to play, but apologised that he didn’t have any money with him. His misunderstanding of our intentions vanished when he was later offered another instrument upon which he had kept the Spitz musicians in time in the past. He cheerily accepted and immediately began playing along, and continued to do so for the remainder of the session. During The Beatles’ Get Back Arthur passed a drum solo to JS, who seemed more at ease in the spotlight than I’ve seen before, no doubt through the nurturing atmosphere that The Spitz creates.
The Spitz band - today comprising Arthur Lea on keys and vocals, Ben Hazleton on double bass and Nat Keen on guitar and vocals - performed a wide range of songs from soft ballads to funky blues which got toes tapping and carers dancing out of their seats. Resident J looked resplendent in a pink polka dot dress and was in high spirits, happy to dance with me from her chair. Resident S danced from the balcony, happy to be involved from afar. The Eagles’ Hotel California was a real singalong.
While the band had a quick break after an hour, I played a few songs on violin during the band’s break - from jazz favourites to Stormzy. I have previously been nervous to play jazz as it’s not my usual repertoire, especially in front of an audience of jazz musicians from the Spitz Collective! But these events are so easeful it’s easy to try new things and build confidence as an artist here.
Carer Mariama requested Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (from his ‘Graceland’ album featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and although the band said they didn’t really know it they worked it out on the fly, and it turned out to be the highlight of the show with everyone up dancing to the South African rhythmic lilt.
As always, the onlookers from the cafe opposite BSL enjoyed a free concert from across the water and I spoke to a few of them including a fellow violinist who wants to get involved with what we are doing, having heard our session.
Despite the joy of the day, we also took time to commemorate the life of Wendy Taylor, a much-loved member of staff at Bridgeside Lodge who died suddenly in April. Midway through proceedings General Manager Fatma said a few heartfelt words before the band launched into a song that Wendy had written with Spitz musician Arthur Lea. For some time Wendy had wanted to write a song about her son who died. “Drifting On Ice” spoke about his love of cars and the fact that she saw a shooting star on the day he died, which had also happened on the day she lost her mum. Arthur made a demo version of the song for her and we had plans to record Wendy singing and rapping on it. She had a real talent for storytelling through her lyrics. We never met her son, but feel like we know him as her words painted such a vivid picture. She told us that the things that used to annoy her about him were the things she remembered most fondly. We hope we can finish the song for her.
It was clear to us that today’s event had a cathartic effect on Wendy's colleagues, providing a much-needed space for expression and ‘letting go’. They were close friends, family even, as well as work associates.
The event was full of food and joy, with wafts of BBQ drawing a huge turnout of residents from their rooms and staff with them. At the end of the session there were more thank yous from BSL residents and staff than I’ve ever heard before, everyone glowing from the sun - and the dancing! It was respite that was needed for us all.