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  • Suzy Bashford

Creativity to embrace difference, with composer Ella Jarman-Pinto

Ella was a joy to have on the podcast - she talked so openly and touchingly about difficult topics, such as losing a baby, and how creativity helped her through the grief. She also painted a picture of what it was like growing up mixed race in an area of little diversity, the Lake District. Most of all she talked about how creativity was like blood running through her veins and, how, when she wasn't expressing it, she felt worse personally and professionally.

Here are a few gems from the conversation - but please do tune into the whole episode (028) on the Big Juicy Creative podcast!

"When I said 'I’m going to go and live in the lake district, other kids would say to me does that mean that there are only lakes there? You have to live on boats?' In terms of being a mixed race kid, they'd say 'have you been on holiday recently?'. We couldn’t quite understand why they’d ask that!"

"Creativity is my soul like blood running through my veins"

"What’s important to know about creativity is that there are downs as well as ups, but the ups are so worth the downs."

What happens if you’re not being creative?

"That’s a really scary question. I’m not in a good place when I’m not creative. It's almost meditative. It goes into anxiety. I plan everything. Creativity for me is problem solving. That’s what it is."

"People go – 'I’m not creative' - and I go 'you ever solved a problem in your life? Well you are creative. You just apply that creativity to different aspects of your life that’s all it is' – and artists apply problem solving to their art, and musicians apply problem solving to their music and sew-ers apply it to their clothes and things they’re making..."

"When I’m not creative something builds up. It’s like someone’s put a plug in me.

And it all builds up and at some point I explode."

"A lot of parents find this really hard and they do explode because thre is no outlet and creativity is an outlet, it’s a way to be yourself, to explore the world you’re in, to challenge yourself, and solve those problems – it’s the problem sovling where these amazing feelings come from."

"Issue – in today’s society – we are so results driven that we lose the creativity.

Results come in time through practice.

Results are not important. Creativity is important."

How can we make that shift?

From results driven mindset, away from the pressure to perform?

"Finding something else. Something new that has no kind of pressure on it at all from yourself or anybody else. And coming at it from that way.

My husand bought me a journal the other day – it was Destroy This Journal"

"I can only do one creative thing at a time. Composing. Sewing. There's no music in my head when I’m sewing. Sometimes I listen to music or podcasts. Or it’s just the act of following reading and swearing at the instructions. Getting wrong. Misreading."

"Sewing is v different from music. The 2 differnent things give me a break. Crochet too."

Growing up? Belonging – not belonging – did creativity play a role in sense of self or belgonging?

"Creativity made me feel different"

"I felt equally different being creative and being a woman of colour – or child of colour"

"Marked different by others because of the 2 of them"

"First thing I'd do getting home from school is sit on the piano and play. Decompressing."

"It feels like the music takes me where I need to go. I just trust it. Sometimes I try and navigate and move it. I’ll have an idea of how the music is supposed to sound like and will it let me replidcate that – no."

How does that sit when you’ve got a commission?

"It has to be intuitive or otherwise it becomes prescriptive and the music isn’t good"

"There is so much bad music out there because it contains no soul, no essence of the person who has creted it or the people who have commissioned it."

"It’s like a cliché. If you trust yourself and the music then you will get something that might not have been what you expected to get but it's bloody brilliant."

"Yes I was decompressing when I was young. And yes what I’m now doing is trying to take in as much as possible from the commissioner, from the people who have worked on that commission, and tried to know as much as possible the desires around it – then decompressed out into the music – that informs al the idea."

"You’ve got to get to the essence of what you’re trying to say"

"The turning point for me [getting her creative mojo back] was speaking to myself more kindly. Trusting myself. My instincts more. And it’s hard. But ultimately incredible. Why? It's so freeing. I snuffed out my flame. Other people didn't – I don’t think anyone else can snuff out your flame."

"I have been conditioned. All women have been conditioned. All men. To make us what we think we should be. The upbringing I had, that was so freeing and creative and empowering, – my mum she is the biggest feminist I know. We knew we were not less than men. Needed to speak our minds. She did an amazing job."

"Then into the patriarchy... a place where everyone was silent. No one was daring. Everyone was trying to fit in and get back and make their lives start. I was still trying to be myself. Bigger than myself. Reinvent myself. This wild child I was – not in a sense of being rebellious against my parents – more had a real temper – still have a real temper just learnt to control it a bit more. What’s right wrong sense of justice determination stubbornness"

"The only way to feel safe was by not being myself... as such the music was awful. Really don’t like the music I wrote then... and it didn't come easily . I had to work so hard to get anything out."

How did you get back in touch with soul?

"I stopped. I hit a wall. It was no longer a fun thing. I had to do because that’s what I said I was going to do because I’m going to be a composer. Hadn’t seen others with famiiles and who were prioritising families. Only men who weren’t really family people were doing really well. 'I’m not going to be that peson because I want a family' I thought."

"I was feeling really disheartend. It felt like a rat race. Bad experience wth my first joy. The joy went out."

Then she tells the story of moving to the Lake District and, when in Italy on holiday, unfortunately losing her baby boy at 20 weeks. She called him Marvellous.

At the time she thought:

"I’ve got to do something with my life

I’ve got to make my baby boy proud of me

For me – I have failed so entirely at this first job of being a parent

I have to prove to him I can be everything that I’m capable of

I have this talent I have to do it"

"The joy came back. I said I would write a song cycle called Songs for Maravellous. I put some parametres, but it was for me.

4 year song cycle

It was joyful beautiful writing it"

"I found myself in it again. It was a way of helping me grieve – a healing process – keeping my child in my memory and in other people’s memories."

"For me and non one else. It was picked up by BBC singers and broadcast."

"This is what happens when you create from the heart; people relate to what you’re saying,

whereas when you are not, when you try and fit in and be what other people are doing, then you are just another part of the mass. And it takes you nowhere apart from pain and unhappiness. If you create for yourself the only person who is in that is you and therefore there is no wrong."

Can you 'create for you' even within a commissioned brief?

"Even if within a brief you can find that bit that resonates – you have to feel."

"I feel like creativity is indulgent even though it’s my life’s work"

"I think [Big Juicy Creative to show the value of creativity and its wide definition] is a brilliant mission. Your mission has made me see I feel guilty sitting down and sewing."

"Any music teacher that tells someone who can’t do music has lost joy in what they’re doing."

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