Last night I attended an Awards Ceremony at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. Black Tie, Red Carpet, Gin reception…the lot. I was there with my podcast co-host Johnny Tudor and we were both presenting awards. It was a night of music, networking, seeing old friends and awards.
Mal, Olwen Rees and Johnny Tudor.
The official title of the event was ‘It’s My Shout’ Awards Night 2023 and all of the recipients were in their teens or early 20’s.
With this being my Golden Jubilee of making records I’ve been thinking long and hard about my journey to be a full time professional musician and how I’ve survived for the last 50 years. I was really lucky, lucky and tenacious. By the age of 12 I had already been turned down a number of times at auditions and the many letters I had sent with tapes of my songs to stars of stage and screen had gone unanswered. If it hadn’t been for John Peel taking the trouble to listen to my tape in 1973 my life might have been very different.
What I did sending a tape was a shot in the dark. There was no clear path to learning my craft and meeting other like minded kids. I did eventually start to play music with other young musicians but meeting them was through word of mouth. Luckily I found some great players who lived locally and who I still make music with all these years later.
What I would have given for something like ‘It’s My Shout‘ when I was a kid.
What I did have was a few very supportive teachers. In Brynhyfryd Junior School I had Peter ‘Bongo’ Williams who got me out in front of the whole school as often as he could to play my latest song in assembly. In Dynevor Comp I had Johnny Morris who had me perform in very school concert. I will never forget the support given to me by those inspirational teachers.
Roger Burnell and Mal Pope at the ‘It’s My Shout’ Awards 2023
Roger Burnell is just like that. It was back in 2002 that he set up ‘It’s My Shout’. His background was teaching in the drama department of Porthcawl Comprehensive School. His previous pupils included Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon. Over the years I kept on hearing about the visionary Roger Burnell. Roger did indeed have a dream to give kids the opportunity to make films, and I mean proper films.
Not everyone wants to be the star in front of the camera. In fact for longevity working behind the scenes is probably a better bet. Stars can go in and out of fashion, but a good makeup artist or camera person is always in demand.
When I used to go to London to make records as a teenager I was always a bit envious of the tea boys or girls. These were usually kids who lived near the studios, who knew someone who got them a job on the lowest rung of the ladder. I knew plenty of talented kids back home who would have been just as good if not better, but they were never going to get that chance.
If you proved yourself as a tea boy the next step was tape operator, then engineer and finally Producer. The people I worked with were talented, but they had also been given the opportunity to learn through an on the job apprenticeship and then gone on to successful careers.
Roger’s idea was to give kids in Wales the chance to do all of those opportunities in the film industry and to do it here in Wales. Every year ‘It’s My shout’ make films with communities and youngsters. They partner complete novices with experienced professionals and the films go on to be shown on the BBC and S4C.
Johnny and the cast of ‘A (Not So) Silent Night’
This year I got a behind the scenes briefing from Johnny Tudor, my podcast buddy on the Mal & Johnny show. Last autumn Johnny got call to play the part of a grandfather in a short film ‘A (Not So) Silent Night’. This was a first time film script for a young Welsh writer Sophie Warren. For Johnny it was a chance to work with an old friend Valmai Jones. Just like any ‘proper’ film there was a script read through and rehearsals before heading out to film on location with a full crew. As usual that crew was made up of experienced professionals and complete newbies.
‘A fool learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from others’.
I was lucky in that as a teenager I worked at the feet of masters in the music industry, for example Gus Dudgeon. By the time I started working with Gus he was the most successful producer in the world. He had produced David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and all of Elton John’s big 1970’s albums. He didn’t sit down and tell me what to do. I learnt by watching and listening. Even today I find myself hearing his voice as I make my own records. These are lessons you never forget.
To get the right training is essential and that’s what happens on ‘It’s My Shout’. The director of Johnny’s film, Rhys Miles Thomas has been involved in ‘It’s My Shout’ for many years. He has served his apprenticeship and this time he was in charge. The same thing happens in all departments. Costume, Make- Up, Cameras. Youngsters get the chance to try their hand and if they stay with it they get the chance to grow as well.
Lots of alumni have gone on to have successful careers in the film, tv and theatre world. Just as I remember my old teachers Peter Bongo Williams and Johnny Morris these kids never forget who gave them time, encouragement and the chance to learn.
It was a joy to present the award in the Composer Category alongside Damian Reynolds an old boy of ‘It’s My Shout’ who does the music for all of the ITV Saturday Evening Light Entertainment Shows.
As I said the kids who start at ‘It’s My Shout’ often go on to have great careers and are only too pleased to come back, say thank you and encourage a new generation.