The original setting for this event was to be Willesden Library, but the addition of a certain Ben Earle to the bill, even without his erstwhile Shires partner Crissie Rhodes piqued the interest of enough people to justify the move to a larger venue. Upon entering it was immediately noticeable that the Songwriters Round would be “In The Round” with the audience surrounding the performers on all sides.
Hosted by Chief Songwriter of the institute Sophie Daniels, the gathered artists were former student Hannah Rose Platt, current students Conor Dunmore and Kaity Rae, who sandwiched another former student Jessica Sharman.
Round 1 – Sophie started things off on piano with her 2012 song “Saving Up For a Rainy Day”, one of a trio or rain related songs that she would perform. Hannah Rose Platt from the class of 2010, gave us a ghostly experience with a song to be included on her second album, “Chanel and Cigarettes”, it was quite wordy, but managed to beautifully build the suspense within the confines of a song. Conor Dunmore recovering from a bout of man flu had a home town tale “Don’t Call It Misery Call It Whiskey” which was probably the less immediately grabbing of the three he would perform. Jess Sharman from the class of 2011, perhaps best known for her work with Ward Thomas, also played piano for her song “Morning”, one co-written with Rebecca Powell that had been left on the shelf waiting for the right project. Kaity Rae, chipped in with “Up In Smoke” which sounded promising on first listen, while the honours of closing round one fell to Ben who came in with a new song co-written with band member Charles and a 5% contribution from Ward Thomas guitarist Dan Gordon, to give you an idea of how popular it was, the audience were singing the chorus to “Keeping Me Up All Night” before the song was finished.
Round 2 – Sophie again led off with a song that had its roots in tragedy, “I Can Love You From Here”, for her child who died, which examined what becomes of all that love that never gets to be expressed. Hannah Rose Platt had a song “Check Mate” that evoked memories of a young Nanci Griffith which is no bad thing. Conor Dunmore’s “When You Find Somebody New” was a much accessible song and got a great reception, Jess Sharman got a chance to the turn the tables on Liv Austen who had invited Jess to the stage at her recent Green Note show for a great song called “Miss Nobody”. Kaity Rae already an established figure on the London circuit revealed she was having to come to terms with what to do as the end of Uni life approaches. “Grown Up” would seem to suggest she has a good future as a performer assured. Closing the round and setting the scene for round three, Ben Earle wheeled out one of his bigger tunes with “State Lines”, it was lovely to hear this on guitar, pared back to the very marrow.
There was time for a short drinks break before things resumed with a quick interview with Ben about songwriting. Sophie may be a songwriter, but interviewer she is not, questions seemed to ramble on for minutes and end without anything actually being asked but Ben gamely played along. The audience also asked a few questions but in truth it was a bit of a wasted opportunity.
The third and final round started with Ben so that we got an extra song as the finale. This was perhaps the stand out moment of the evening, “Married To Me” we were told is definitely not a Shires song, but was certainly something special, and we look forward to hearing it again. It dealt with being together with his partner but not being married and was truly heartfelt and beautiful.
Sophie had the unenviable job of following Ben, and completed her rain trilogy with a new song “No-One Can Outrun The Rain” on piano. Hannah Rose Platt, performed “1954” from her first album, while Conor played a song that originated from the assignment of writing a simple story. It is unlikely that Jess Sharman would have been allowed to leave without performing at least one of her Ward Thomas collaborations and the audience duly stepped up to play their part on a rousing “Carry You Home”. Kaity Rae let us know that her first visit to Bush Hall was to see the Ward Thomas / Shires tour, and then got to play “It Is” with Ben joining in on backing vocals. To close matters on a celebratory note meant another audience participation song, “1000 Hallelujahs” fitted this perfectly, with some audience members remembering the actions form the recent Shires tour that accompany the song!
The evening had been an unqualified success and seeing as it had been a free show as well it is hard to complain, we had exclusives, a chance to see some songwriters that rarely perform in public, and possibly a glimpse of tomorrows stars today.