Chantelle Smith

Time to Create

Saturday, 20th January, 2018

I’m trying something new this year, after some encouragement from my partner, Kevan. I’m making a conscious effort to put aside an entire day at least twice a month for creating.


Image of Chantelle's music journal


In the past, my creative time has been mostly slotted around everything else I do which often means I have very little time just to create. Even when I get to the point of being able to create, I’m often too tired. This, in turn, has left me feeling frustrated and, yes, I will admit wanting to walk away from creating things altogether more than once because of the stress the wanting to create and not being able to.


I’d almost forgotten how much creating and working on new material boosts my mood and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Thankfully, I got a reminder when, as a challenge, I learned and recorded myself singing a new folk song for #TradSongTues earlier in the week (before the cold virus really kicked me down).



I suppose it seems obvious that I should have put aside a serious amount of time for creating but in a world that is increasingly becoming worrying to live in putting such time aside seemed very much like a selfish indulgence when I should be doing something more ‘useful’ and helping others. I didn’t want to be self-absorbed or only concerned with my own life; breaking from the ‘me first’ mentality seemed like an act of rebellion but perhaps I took it too far. What I failed to take into account is that I work a full time job that is nothing to do with my creativity and that I am involved in various community related pieces of work – it’s not like I don’t help out in my communities. It’s not unreasonable to take two or three days off a month to do the things that make my heart sing.


Of course, me being me, I needed to have someone else say “it’s ok, go and create” before I could actually allow myself to set aside time to do it. Thank you, Kevan, for being the one to say it.


I’m not writing this to justify my choice; it is, after all, my time and my decision. I write this more in case anyone reading this is finding themselves in the same situation. It’s ok to take some time out and to create art, whatever your art form is. Art gives us hope, provides a little escape from the grind of the world, opens our minds to other ideas and possibilities, allows us to spill our souls onto pages, out of instruments and mouths etc. Art is important and so is the time for you to create.


Today has been my first ‘creative Saturday.’ I was a little slow getting off the mark, deciding what I wanted to work on and tapping into the creative force within me. It’s had a long nap so needed some prodding. Perhaps I didn’t achieve as much as I thought I would but I still did it. I created today and I feel great. At the end of today, I have a harp line for one of the tracks on my upcoming EP and a lyric inspired by a book I recently read (Wychwood by George Mann in case you’re wondering); if I hadn’t put aside today as a creative day I wouldn’t have either of these things.


I’m looking forward to more creative Saturdays going forward and seeing what comes out of them. If you are looking to schedule in more time for your own creativity then do it, don’t feel guilty for doing so, and enjoy yourself. The nitty gritty of the world will wait for one day. Let’s see what wonders we can add to this world of ours to make it a more bearable place to live in.

Ballads in the Borders and Beyond

Wednesday, 5th July, 2017

I sit here typing this blog post in a gorgeous arts centre on the edge of the Galloway Forest (CatStrand in New Galloway in case you’re passing by) with the words of a Child Ballad scribbled out on a piece of paper beside me (resting on volume one of Bronson’s “Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads). I’m on holiday in the south of Scotland while my partner walks the Southern Upland Way (I’m the support crew of one) and, not content with ‘merely’ relaxing I thought I would give myself a little project to do so as to keep myself busy.


It goes without saying that Border Ballads have a connection with, yes you’ve guessed it, the Scottish borders but there are other ballads such as the Child ballads which also have connections locations in the Scottish Borders and westwards into Dumfries and Galloway.


I’ve been struggling to learn new songs recently due to a lack of time and energy (most of my creative energy has been channelled the eponymous ‘Brighid’s Flame’ show which was premiered at the end of last month) so when better to learn some new ballads than when holidaying in an area of the British Isles that has such a deep connection with them.


There are some Child ballads I’ve wanted to learn for a while that don’t have direct connections to locations so I’m going to learn a few of them, too, allowing myself to be inspired by the landscape I find myself in when choosing them.


Not only am I learning the songs; I am also recording myself singing them either in situ or in places in southern Scotland that inspired me to learn and sing them. Having done this a couple of times last year, I’ve found singing songs in situ a very powerful experience so even if I’m not word perfect I still want to record songs in the places and landscapes they’re connected with.



Recording on the shores of Loch Ryan


I’ll be posting the videos to my youTube account as and when I have good internet access to upload them (and, of course, when I actually do the recording). Here’s a little video I put together explaining what I’m up to:



On the list so far is:


* Fair Annie of Lochroyan (done)
* The Unquiet Grave (done)
* The Two Sisters
* King Orfeo
* The Three Ravens
* Fair Helen of Kirconnell Lea
* Dowie Dens of Yarrow
* The Lament of the Border Widow
* Tam Lin


Possible others:


* Annan Water
* The Flowers of the Forest

Watch all my videos on the Ballads in the Borders playlist on my youTube channel.

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