Wednesday 8 July 2015

Listening with Dame Evelyn Glennie

 When the thought “what should I wear?” crosses my mind, you know it must be a more serious meeting for me, a natural scruff. “Is Evelyn a Diva?” was another worry – after all this is Dame Evelyn Glennie, recent winner of the Polar Prize. Most of all, I kept repeating the mantra “her name is Eh-Ve-Lyn NOT Eev-lyn!”

Personally, I blamed Brenda Gillian. It turns out that the author of “Maiseerola and the Purple Sweets”, a lovely children’s story we published (see, also happens to be business advisor to Dame Evelyn. She had arranged for me to attend a brainstorming session with Team Glennie.

From the first big welcoming smile and handshake, I knew that I needn’t have worried. Here was someone who, if they had a pedestal, was certainly not going to be on it because it would make a perfectly good stand for the drums over in the corner. That corner being in a room that had a veritable mountain of glittering awards in another niche and a significant part of Evelyn’s collection of percussion instruments extending into the vastness behind us.

Our discussion swirled around the creation of Evelyn’s legacy. Many readers will already be aware of Evelyn’s trailblazing elevation of the role of the percussionist. Some, like me, have also heard her as a public speaker (Ted Talk, Polar Prize talk). There are schools and young people who have been inspired by her educational visits. Add to that – composing and a film & video catalogue. It is therefore no surprise that Evelyn is thinking big. Her ambition is to create an internationally renowned, self-financing centre, around sound and listening that crosses multiple disciplines.

Evelyn has been raising awareness of the importance of listening over the past few years. As the first stage on the long journey to the successful legacy, Evelyn has decided it is her turn to listen. Whether at home in the UK or globetrotting to concerts, there will be conversations with colleagues, peers, illuminati and everyday people like us. She will be exploring how and when listening is an important element in our lives.

Every conversation comes to a close. After a couple of hours in heated debate, challenging ideas and looking at solutions, we found ourselves in that quiet at the end of a successful meeting.

“Can I ask you a favour?” Evelyn looked at me warily, as well she should. When I explained an idea for a photograph – her eyes twinkled. Adam had to kneel uncomfortably on a chair for the photographs above. All went well for the first few shots - till we fell about laughing after a chance comment by Adam – hence the last picture.

“So that’s Evelyn Glennie!” I thought as I left: Virtuoso; inspirational role model; human being.

For full set of larger images see: