Hannah McPhillimy and I

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I’ve been having a lot of conversations about collaboration recently. Lots of people I know are working on fantastic projects with other artists, musicians, writers, theatre and film folk, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of these creative clashes. I’m also a little jealous of the ease with which certain art forms lend themselves to partnership and co-creation.

As a novelist artistic collaboration is not the easiest thing to pursue but I think there’s a great deal of worth in grabbing these collaborative opportunities when they do arise. Last year I got to write with a theatre team as part of Accidental Theatre’s amazing Fast and Loose Project and the experience was both challenging and really liberating. The responsibility I usually feel when I stand up to read a story or send something off to a journal was balanced between a whole host of willing shoulders and it was wonderful to feel part of a team for a change.

Most artists enjoy collaboration because it adds something to their creativity; two people working together often bring new angles, new ideas and new forms of expression to the table which would never have been accomplishable whilst working alone. However, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how collaboration also brings limitation. As an artist agreeing to work with another completely different artist you cannot possibly be as free to follow your own vision as far, or execute it as purely as you would alone. Therein lies one of the strongest arguments for collaboration. There’s a humility which comes in learning to collaborate, to compromise on your ideas for the sake of partnership, to offer up your own ideas for interpretation by someone else, to allow for the possibility that someone else might be better placed to execute your vision than you will ever be. Humility is something I admire in artists as it often reveals a willingness to learn and grow. The idea of pursuing humility through collaboration and deflecting a little of the focus which falls on an individual writer really appeals to me right now.

I’m very much excited to be collaborating with the fabulous Belfast-based singer-songwriter Hannah McPhillimy on a project associated with Malcolm Orange Disappears. Hannah’s going to read the novel and write some songs based on different sections of the story. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with, though a little anxious about the process of letting another artist free reign to interpret my work. Watch this space to see how our experiment in collaboration is going and check out Hannah’s music and upcoming gigs on her website www.hannahmcphillimy.com It’s such an honour to work with someone I really respect as an artist and a wonderful human being.

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