This Mess We’re In

…was a project conceived by ODAS and commissioned by Leeds City College’s Art Fund. The concept was for ODAS to create new music to act as a backing / soundtrack to a series of new pieces of spoken word by students from Leeds City College, culminating in a live performance

The students were tasked with creating their pieces of poetry / spoken word with only the title “This Mess We’re In” as a stimulus. It was left open to how that was interpreted – anything from Climate Change to personal relationships. Meanwhile, ODAS created initial demos of track ideas. These were sent to the students, and each picked one or two to work with.

ODAS and the students fed back notes to one another; ideas for extending parts of the tracks, looping others and fitting the words around the existing dynamics in the track. ODAS brought in an experienced writer / performance poet to attend the students writing sessions to help develop their ideas and move the ideas from the page into performance.

The project culminated with a live performance. This was the first time the students and ODAS had met face to face. A day of rehearsal led to two final performances; one for peers at the college and a public performance that was also filmed.

This was a hugely interesting project. Both ODAS and the students began working independently, almost in the dark as to what the expectations were from the other side. But the communication and sharing ideas over a few months slowly brought it all together.

Musically, the writing process also reflected on the idea of “This Mess We’re In”. The tracks featured odd and changing time signatures, quick and sometimes brutal tempo changes and different approaches to dynamics.

It was a rewarding project, especially on show day. The students were excellent and professional and it clearly meant a lot to them to play with a ‘real band’ in a live setting. They were inspired and their final performances showed this. As was intended from the start, it was the young people’s words and their presence that was up front and centre stage.

A playlist with videos of live performances of all 8 songs from the show is available here:

“This Mess We’re In” created by Dean Freeman

Music written by Dean Freeman. Performed by Dean Freeman, Dan Hayes and Harry Rhodes.

Words and vocal performances by Jack Firth, Ruby-Jane Marshall, Freya Nettle, Kat Trowsdale and Sophie Whittaker.

Filmed by GSK Videography. Edited by Dean Freeman.