You may know Amy Joyce and Stefanie Campbell as the minds between local gig promoters 3for3, but the pair have much more lofty ambitions. The 3for3 gigs will continue but the formation of Bird & Bramble is a statement of intent for how they can do more. The purpose of Bird & Bramble is to promote music and creativity throughout Northern Ireland and they’ve already been asked to sit on discussion panels and host a series of gigs with much more planned.
We are thrilled that the pair have volunteered to offer their insight on a variety of topics that are often overlooked and merit further discussion. For their first piece, Amy and Stef tackle the challenge of working in the creative sector while managing the responsibilities that come with raising a family.
Recently Bird & Bramble were invited along with blogger ‘Oh Mummy’ to host a panel as part of Women’s Work Festival. The panel looked at parenting in the creative industry and this is what happened… As a promoter and artist who is also a parent you can sometimes feel like a bit of an anomaly, a fake, a part time grown up. You are split between two very diﬀerent worlds. One is soundcheck and writing sessions and gigs and pints and ‘have you heard the new track?’, and the other one is school runs and onesies and Peppa and clubcard points. They are two polarising worlds that rarely overlap. And I guess maybe all of that is ok and maybe they aren’t overlapping for a reason but what do you do when you live in both? Because the truth is I’m not an anomaly.
Most of the artists I know now are parents. A huge number of the sound technicians and promoters and a hundred other jobs in the arts are parents. The further into my 30’s I creep, the more this is the norm, and the more I realise, there is almost no provision for it. So when we were approached to run a panel discussion as a part of Women’s Work festival, the discussion we wanted to have most was if any other parents felt like this.
We were joined on the panel by the amazing talent that is Rory Nellis, a local singer songwriter and Dad to two, Lucie Corcoran, a promoter, artists and mum of one, Sara Gunn-Smith who works for Film Hub NI and is a mum to two and Sharon Young, a formidable singer songwriter, member of the Generator team, business owner and mum to two girls. And so the talking began. It started with general story swapping, the endless searching for babysitters, the guilt of late nights out, the wondering if you are boring people because all your answers to “what’s the craic then?” are child based and met with fairly blank faces. But as we chatted on, the discussion turned to bigger issues. How do you remain inspired and creatively in touch when you are surrounded by toys and plastic cutlery and the theme songs to every Disney movie ever made? How do you remain current and involved when you have to leave every gig by midnight to let the babysitter go? How do you balance your time, your life?
I’m sure every parent feels this pressure but the reality of parenting in the creative industry is that there is no home time, no paid leave and certainly no childcare. You are inevitably asking a partner to stay home, a friend or parent to do bedtime. We all had the collective feeling that the people to meet and the conversations to have were happening as we were packing up, or looking at our watches. But there is a positive side, and that was what I took away most. Yes you might have the sleeping pattern of a toddler, occasionally confuse Bon Iver and Mr Tumble, and consistently feel like the oldest person in the room, but with all of that comes the absolute will to do it. The conﬁdence in your work and who you are as a parent. Being a parent and working in the arts is like a massive bullshit ﬁlter. You go to what you know will be inspiring, you chase down what you know you want because the stakes are higher, you produce work that is reﬂective of the life you have now. I asked one member of the panel if they found it hard to write now that time was scarce and song writing doesn’t always stick to a schedule. Their answer was that song writing sticks to a schedule when you have no other choice.
You edit faster, use your time wisely and might not have the same subject matter as you did before, but that’s ok because the best work is always the most honest, write what you know. And above all of the that, the most amazing positive that at some point all of the panel had experienced was the moment that you see your job through the eyes of your child and see how fucking awesome it is. How hard teenage you would high ﬁve you right now. It might be the Black Box on a Thursday but all your kid sees is a stage. You might as well be Bowie playing Wembley. You are on the radio! Your name is on a poster! You can chase down the life of an artist for so long that you forget when you are in it. This was just the start of a conversation for me. It was a nice window into a world where other parents have the same worries and problems unique to the creative sector. We didn’t exactly come away with ground-breaking answers to all these problems but that wasn’t the point. We came away supported, and that was everything.
The creative industry, music in particular can be a lonely game, even in a band. It’s built on self promotion and motivation, endless doubts that you are good enough, new enough, gigging enough, gigging too much. Support is key. As parents we have to support each other and as artists too. So yes we perhaps didn’t come away with any ground-breaking answers, but that wasn’t what the panel was for, it was a chance to discuss and share the unique experience of parenting while being involved in the creative industries. I came away inspired by my peers with a hunger to do more and a relief that everyone has the same fears and pressures. I hope the rest of the panel felt the same, I think they did! Thanks go out to everyone involved from panel members to festival organisers and the Oh Yeah centre for hosting it all.
If you are interested in learning more about Bird & Bramble and their objectives, potentially collaborating with them or perhaps having a discussion about the issues raised above, then you should visit their website.