Alison is a Secret Coast Songwriter

In November 2022 I took the plunge and went on a songwriting weekend in Tighnabruaich on Scotland's wild and wooly west coast and it was life changing....and for a change I am not exaggerating!

Arriving clenched in a house to meet 11 total strangers is something that I have never done. As quite an outgoing creature it was so out of my comfort zone. The Imodium was in the handbag as I drove into the sleepy but beautiful town of Tighnabruaich. Argyll's Secret Coast is a jewel of a place, and a secret as it is not a through road - it is a destination and so here we are.

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The Hollies is the house where everyone stays. A hotel in the past bought by Graeme and Lorraine McFall as a holiday home which due to Covid took on another identity altogether. As the couple were decorating they decided to give each room a different name, and as obsessed music fans, Scottish bands were the suggested theme. So rooms including Deacon Blue, The Bluebells, Love and Money came into the orbit of some of those very people via social media - specifically James Grant and Bobby Bluebell who loved it. Graeme suggested half jokingly they should come and do a songwriting weekend and bingo! They were off!

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Arriving at the Hollies on the Thursday evening was a buttock clench I cannot lie, but I was welcomed in with a big smile, a hot drink and a tour round the impressive gaff - the first exhale. My room, Deacon Blue overlooked the water and the whole place is stunning from location to decor to facilities - in fact I might break in one day and just live there! Over the next wee while everyone padded in one by one, all feeling nervous but very quickly we started talking about our one shared passion, music and from that moment to the moment we left there was not one awkward silence. In fact quite the opposite.

Amongst my new chums are two ex policemen, a builder, a performance artist, a lawyer, and of course our two mentors, Bobby Bluebell from iconic band The Bluebells and James Grant from Friends Again and Love & Money amongst other combos. Low key, coffee drinking, chatting. No "don't you know who I am" vibes at all. All very calm.

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November in Scotland, the sun was shining, so a bracing walk along the seashore, then breakfast and copious coffees before everyone gathered in the lounge We went round the room one by one with everyone saying if they had a song, a tune, an idea or neither of the aforementioned. It was inclusive no matter what anyone wanted to do, even if they didn't know what they wanted. Listening intently to everything were mentors, James and Bobby who without exception eked an idea or theme out of everyone and before we even knew it the ball was rolling. This was Friday.

At this point everyone wandered off on their own, or with someone else, working on their songs, lyrics, talking it through with others, all humming, singing, playing was my idea of heaven. Friendships forged and delicious food eaten the whole day and evening was spent immersed in music. Confidence slowly grew as everyone realised we were all in it together. All nervous, all loving the moment and most importantly we had found our people.

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Much as I was tempted to stand around and slug beer I know myself too well and decided to slink off about midnight as I wanted to be up fresh and present. Not lying on the floor of the ensuite with a cold towel round my head annoyed at my lack of self control.

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On the Saturday night, nervous as cats, we all went along to a local cafe with our guitars, keyboards, ukuleles, mouth organs and a carry out - of course! There was a performance area set up for us and after we sat and ate some delicious home cooked food every single one of us got up and sang and played our songs accompanied by James and Bobby and other songwriters too. It was a fabulous evening...I will draw a veil over how much rum I necked but suffice to say afterwards we retired to The Hollies and sat up to all hours, singing and playing and laughing like drains. We had done it!

If you had told me the same group of people who arrived shy, shuffling and monosyllabic within 24 hours would be bosom buds, clamped together in a local hostelry singing, playing and talking until the wee small hours having performed our own songs to the assembled throng I would have said you were barking. But that is exactly what happened. What an adventure, what a revelation and what a bloody laugh. I haven't laughed so much for years, and none of us had ever met before until that weekend.

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I have been back again, as many others have too.If you have the slightest inkling to write a song, to find out about the process, to meet like minded people for a weekend which may very well change you life, as it has mine, then I urge you to damp down the nervous feeling and go for it. It should be compulsory on the NHS!

Alison xx

Alison Craig

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