Waterlooville welcomed (us) the POP Confessional into its arms on a busy Saturday morning in May. We were invited by The Spring in Havant to join them at the community ‘Party in the Precinct’ event. Because it was the first one, the organisers weren’t quite sure of what to expect and no one knew how many would attend… it’s hard to do anything for the first time isn’t it? Especially in iffy weather.
We (Gobbledegook) were there with our portable confession booth in which we invite people to sit down in the booth and give confession, the High Priestess of Pop asking people what music they love – and what piece of music is their guilty pleasure. I’ve cast myself as the High Priestess of Pop in this piece, and I get to question people. It’s really a way of having a glorious conversation about music and art in general – what people like, what they don’t like. Once people have completed their confession (where I either absolve them of their sinful listening pleasures or explain that really any music you like is perfectly brilliant and that we shouldn’t let anyone else tell us what to like or what not to like) we give them a party popper to celebrate and on exit from the booth, their favourite song should be playing for them. It’s a sort of delightful silliness of listening passions and joyful embarrassment shared. If they were happy to, we shared their music choices on a sort of community board at the back of the booth. Pop is that gorgeous mix of image/music/nostalgia.
Part of the idea for the Confession (which started life as the Art Confessional for B-Side Festival in 2014) is that I adore situations where people enthuse about stuff they love, be it collecting badges to travelling long distances to attend dog shows. I like listening to what people want to see and what they want to do. It makes me think about the art I make. It makes me want to enthuse about the things I like too. A virtuous circle of positivity.
As well as inviting guilty pleasures, I ask if pieces of pop music have ever changed people’s lives or if it’s made you cry, if you’ve fallen in love to a music or which pop sends you into a rapture. What’s a terrible piece for one is wonderful to another. We’re all fantastically interesting in our tastes. We’ve found that what makes you feel guilty about music choice is an incredibly nuanced thing. For example, It’s easy for me to admit to liking Nirvana, but I find it harder to admit to also quite like the Foo Fighters, despite Dave Grohl being in both. It really takes me something to admit that I really like Coldplay’s first album (guys, forgive me, it was a bad break up) but of course these guilty feelings are ridiculous and inscrutable to the large majority of people. That’s why the question is such an interesting one. I thought of this when in Waterlooville teenager Kelis (who is named after the singer) was deeply embarrassed to admit to liking the perfectly inoffensive and likeable George Ezra song Shotgun (“it’s awful though isn’t it?” she asks).
Thankfully, the rain held off in Waterlooville all day and the community attended in droves. I love working outside and away from the usual performance venue (it’s what we do as a company after all). When people tell us their tunes, we become like a fantastic DJ request stall. We played first dances from weddings. I might not be a fan, but Claire! Take That’s Rule The World is fine to like! Millions upon millions do! Brilliant, surreal moments of being in a shopping precinct also occurred – one of my highlights were the three Star Wars Storm Troopers who walked by. We noticed in time and played for The Imperial March and later the music from the Cantina to which they obligingly danced.
We were beautifully serenaded a few times by confessors, Sally and her large extended family, a mix of buggies and children of a various ages stood and sang along to Lady Gaga’s Shallow, and Simone, who was extremely heavily pregnant gave her a brilliant, sock-blowing-off ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical Wicked. There were a few big ups for Let It Go from Frozen too.
When asked, June confessed to loving “anything opera”, but specifically Mario Lanza’s Be My Love (oh! How glorious it was to hear his sonorous tones across the Greggs coffee/pasty queue). Sue loved the song ‘My Dingaling’ which I’d not come across but I have to say that the song title could certainly be misinterpreted as being extremely rude (actually, I don’t think I’m misinterpreting it?! Crikey Chuck Berry!). Jimmy – and his mate, who I reckon to be in their early thirties and were pretty cool both really like Chesney Hawke’s One and Only. They even saw him play a promo whilst on holiday in Magaluf. Nina liked any sort of 90s dance music (any), Rebecca , who is in her early teens, just likes songs her Grandfather likes – Keep the Home Fires Burning and jazz music.
Owen (8) loves Wonderwall by Oasis and Rosie (age 11) Green Door by Shakin’ Stevens. As a parent, it made me realise how much my Dad’s own taste in music has so heavily influenced my own. I’ve certainly afflicted my love of the Beastie Boys onto my own children. Ryan and Alex (brothers) like air shows, making model planes and the and the song Rocking all Over the World by Status Quo, which they learnt at school.
Grace loves the song Another Chapter by Try Hard Ninja and the music to the ‘Bendy Computer Game’ and Smith, her brother, likes it too. Pauline – music didn’t really do anything for Pauline, she’s just not bothered by it at all. She’s very creative though, loves crochet, knitting, arts and crafts, floristry. When I asked some of the younger women about what they’d like to see performed somewhere they responded with make up demonstrations and tutorials – something I thought was an utterly genius suggestion. Make Up artists have such a sort of visible but hidden art form it’d be amazing to present it in an arts centre.
I think my favourite moment of the day was dancing with Karen, just the two of us dancing in the street to Mama Mia, by ABBA. IT’s not a song, which I’ve ever loved, but her love of it, her communicated passion, well, it made me listen anew.
Pop does something marvellous to us. It’s a complicated mix of music and yearning for our lost youth and dancing pasts. And that’s why we love it. I was at the enormous Spice Girls concert in an enormous stadium in Cardiff last week and as the first bars of Spice Up Your Life started, I cried my eyes out. Because that was the song which always played in the first club I ever started to think of as my local, a rough-as-you-like sticky floored gay-club in Bournemouth called the Exchange. When I thought of the wild fun my 17/18 year old self had in that club dancing to that song – it’s emotional. And it’s nostalgic. And that song transported me there faster than HG Wells in a TARDIS.
We were working with the team from The Spring in Havant on Saturday the 18th May 2019. If you’ve not been, The Spring in Havant is a brilliant venue, has a hugely committed team who’re intent on talking and listening to their audiences. And they love music too.