Play on, play on…

I’ve just had a bit of a treat. A visit to Glyn Jones workshop. They say if you’re thinking of buying a dog, do the research BEFORE you go to see the puppy, because once you hold that puppy in your hands you’re lost. Glyn describes himself not as a Luthier but as a maker and repairer of Violin family instruments  He began his journey whilst browsing in a second-hand bookshop and his engineers eye fell on a book about the art of violin making “Violin Making as it Was and Is” by polymath Edward Heron-Allen who studied under French Violin Luthier Georges Chanot at his London Workshop in 1885 in order to write the book. A particular quote in the book spoke to Glyn and he decided to have a go at making a violin.

Sometime later, a violin back recently resin-coated was hanging out on the washing line at his army quarters in Germany and caught the eye of Betty a violinist in the Detmold Chamber Orchestra as she cycled past. Fascinated and intreagued Betty grabbed a colleague and invited themselves round for Sunday lunch and soon became Glyns first official testers giving valuable feedback and the rest as they say, is history…

I know this because Glyn is about to give a talk to a local Women’s Institute group and has obviously been re-visiting his journey in preparation. He confessed to me that he will readily and happily talk all day about the making of instruments, his passion and pride communicating not just through his words but his work and his work-environment. I would have been quite happy to listen all day but he is a busy man.

There is something quite addictive about a craftsman’s workshop. Glyns is like the violin version of the Enchanted Toyshop, or even Ollivanders Wand-making Workshop. Underneath all the science and precision engineering is magic and enchantment: that transformative process in science that creates beauty from brutalism. In a glass fronted cabinet sit rows of bottles containing raw ingredients for making different resins. Glyn is currently experimenting with a rose-madder colour, rich and luxuriant. Hanging from the roof are his works in progress from his Vio-5 electric acoustic violin with a wonderful heart shaped bottom and five strings, to a burnished and beautiful violin waiting to go down with Glyn to the Weymouth Festival this year. On a bench are the front and back of another violin in creation and behind his wood blocks, from Slovenia and all sorts of interesting places, hand picked and maturing; waiting to be chosen and created in to a hand crafted work of art. Each piece worked by hand, no nails, no staples, just cutting, carving, shaping, smoothing, glueing, drying and the layer upon layer of resin applied. Countless hours of labour, craft, and deep satisfaction in the making of it all.

Glyn doesn’t pepper his work with talk of ‘flaming’ and ‘purflins’, he speaks simply and with quiet passion about his work, and it really is an experience to see the inner workings of instrument creation. I aspired right there and then to my daughter being able to experience the journey of owning an instrument which she had chosen the wood for, decided on the pattern, colour and tone and stage by stage had watched it come to life. The practical side of me knows that whilst she is at Grade 2, that day is a way off yet and that we’re more likely in the short term, to try for one of Glyns skillfully restored older instruments. How wonderful to be able to make music and how much more wonderful to own an instrument made for you that becomes a part of your life story as much as you become a part of it’s history.

We need music in our lives, despite the damage done by our current drearily unimaginative and short-sighted government who are removing the arts from the curriculum (again in fact, having first done so back in Margaret Thatchers day). The government educationalists talk of creating Scientists without understanding that in the right hands Science creates beauty and beauty is music: in the wrong hands Science creates nothing but pain and despair. Today, was a day of music, play on, play on.


Whitstable – here now

England is at its eccentric best on May Day, all the quirky ancient traditions such as  ‘Pat-a-Lamb’ and the Cuckoo Fairs, Heritage Re-enactments and Morris Dance Parades emerge in colourful, frolicsome joy to prance gleefully about and remind us of our connection to the land, the woods, the trees, the fields.  So it was perhaps no surprise that on a fleeting visit to @escapetocreate ‘s pad in Whitstable on May Day this year that we should succumb to her inherent creative promoter’s charm and take a walk along Whitstable Beach to the busy, bustling harbour. There we stumbled upon a procession of Morris Dancers parading along to Dead Mans Corner and delighting young and old with their sunny ‘merry olde England’ goodwill amidst the jingle of bells and the fiddling of fiddles. A large ivy clad tree ambled alongside fair maidens and a big brown bear dispensed hugs and photo opportunities.

Arriving by the decking stage at Dead Mans Corner I examined some of the beautiful clay pebbles made as part of a community project and housed in a barrier of Gabion cages – ‘Here Now’ read one. I certainly am, I thought.

Whitstable retains its old coastal town charm and character, clap-board cottages and the curvy Horsebridge Arts Centre mingle comfortably with Oyster bars, the Sailing Club, Cafe’s and the working fishing fleets to-ing and fro-ing in the Harbour. The Coffee stall exudes a siren song to passers-by, the heady mix of coffee and salty air, exhorting you to stop and buy  ‘coffee with your ice-cream Sir? Madam?’. Queues for the Crab and Winkle meandered down the South Quay and the West Whelks Oyster stall was doing a roaring trade by the old smoke huts. Whitstable Harbour, remains relatively unscathed by the surge of concrete monstrosities that sprung up in all the wrong places throughout the sixties and seventies, which is another good reason to go there. We carried on up to the Castle where everyone was in party mode and then back along the beach and through the town, past all those little lanes and nooks and crannys that make the seafront so endearing. It was a wrench to go home!