I want to be Bricklayer No. 3

This week I was told the story about the 3 bricklayers.  They were all pretty much doing the same thing with bricks and mortar.

When asked what he was doing the first bricklayer looked at the person asking questions as if they were daft.  ‘Well, isn’t it obvious, I’m laying bricks’ said the bricklayer and carried on working.

sad bricklayer

Bricklayer No. 1

The second Bricklayer was asked the same question.  This worker looked a little more involved.  He stood back and pointed to his work.  ‘I’, he said, ‘I am building wall’.


Bricklayer No.2

The interviewer moved on to the final person laying bricks.  ‘What am I doing, I’m building a school that will be a place where my kids can come to learn all about the world and space and music and science and hear stories and its going to be a place that will change lives’.

The funny indian guy taking the bricks.

Bricklayer No.3

All three bricklayers appeared to be doing exactly the same thing, but each viewed it differently.  The first had a job, the second had a career and the third had a purpose.  It was a little embarrassing to be honest because I found myself welling up a little bit but it really made me stop and think.

The interesting thing is that if all three bricklayers did the same work the school would still have been built and they would still have got paid.  To their employer, how they felt about their work makes no difference to him.  He pays, they lay bricks, a school is built.

The difference is actually in the lives of the bricklayers.

As a musician I expect I’ve spent most of my working life asking why I do what I do, or usually what the heck I am doing this time?  If I am lucky at all it is in the fact that I’ve always felt that at the end of the day being a musician or writer or producer or broadcaster was something I had to do.  There have been times when I’ve had to consider getting a ‘proper’ job but thank goodness, for the proper job and me, its hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe I wouldn’t be quite so Bricklayer No. 3 if I was say…a bricklayer.

The story of the bricklayers doesn’t end there.  As the Bricklayer No. 3 tells his story of building a school his mates Bricklayer No.1 and No. 2 hear what he is saying.  They are inspired by his vision of the job in hand.  From there on they get more out the work than they did before because they know there is an outcome that is bigger than they previously thought and that they are making a difference.

Which bricklayer are you?


Swansea a City of Culture?commission

One of the most disheartening things about being a producer of Records or TV shows, radio programmes or films is the commissioning process.  Usually the commissioners release a brief where they say the type of thing they would like to see in their commission.  The trouble is their guidelines are usually just vague enough to leave you wondering what on earth they really want.  You have to go through a whole process of trying to second guess what will make them select your idea.

Whilst I always try to be Bricklayer No.3 this process has nearly destroyed me on numerous occasions.  The great idea you think will tick every box is turned down at the first attempt or if it does get shortlisted you soon find that when you finally get to meet the commissioner the thing they want from you and the thing you want to create are worlds apart.


Not only have you poured your heart into the project by this stage if you have got to the shortlist stage you have spent hours and hours working on the project and often spent a lot of money developing the idea.

Why do you do it?  There is the glimpse of a much bigger prize that keeps you going, you have to balance the investment against the possible returns, but you have to be in it to win it. If you win, the decision to invest time and money to win pays off many times over.

If you lose?  That’s much harder.  The number of times I have had a rejection letter or phone call and then taken days or weeks to get over it and pick myself up to start again are all seared on my heart.  The natural reaction is to think to yourself that’s the last time I do all of that work.

Unfortunately, the world really doesn’t care if you give in, it continues to turn and the less you take chances the fewer opportunities arise.  So how do you justify the process whilst keeping your sanity.

Well, you have to learn lessons.  You take the work and the investment, and you use it in other ways.  You think about the people you’ve met, the connections made, the creation of new networks that might bear fruit in the future.

We didn’t win the title of City of Culture 2021. It cost a lot of money and of course if these days of austerity every penny of public money is precious. What I do know is so many of got involved and never took a penny for our work.  We, like Bricklayer 3, felt that each interview, each little film, every radio interview was another brick laid building a better future for our city.

What we must now ensure is that, that investment is money well spent, that we learn lessons and continue to fight to win the prize whatever that prize might be next.

on the ropes

This is not the time to give up. As Mario Maccarinelli, the former world champion Enzo’s dad, used to say, every boxer has to learn to take a punch.  What you do is take a knee, put your arm on the ropes and count to 8 before you get up and get back in the fight.

Get me, talking boxers and bricklayers and I have hands that bear no scars except the hardening of the ends where the guitar strings leave their marks.  But boxers and bricklayers and even guitarist can dream of being part of something bigger than themselves