Creating an archive of summer soundtracks

Story collection / Editing

Facilitating and editing a story collection project with members of the general public.

A couple of years ago I trailed a project getting people to explore reminiscent stories relating to music. The idea was to collect an authored playlist of Britain’s best-loved summer soundtracks, told through a series of nostalgic personal experiences.

Over the few months the project ran, we got masses of contributions – often from first-time writers, often people who hadn’t thought about writing before.

The format for each piece was the same. A paragraph or two relating to the playlist or song. An image. And a 5-track playlist of songs that mean something.

Here is a selection of some of the stories contributed:

Cecilia’s story

Remembering my childhood is like looking through a kaleidoscope of memories; the hot summers in France spent lying on the scorched grass in the garden, and windy walks in Cornwall holding my Mother’s hand. As the memories shift into one another, the only residing factor is sound. The sound of waves, my Father’s laughter over the noise of the record player, the sound of my childhood slowly escaping my clutches. The familial crackle of the needle hitting vinyl, as Astral Weeks fills the air.

Summer for me means family, and family means music. I suppose the song that sticks with me most is Going Up The Country by Canned Heat. It makes me think of long car journeys, the hot heavy breath of the dog on my neck, and my Mother singing in the front seat.

It was the summer of 2001 that I really discovered my music. I’d been brought up on a diet of Marlena Shaw and Otis Redding and I thought I knew music, until I heard Canned Heat and I suppose my little ears just liked what they heard because it’s been a favourite ever since.Years later, lying in Ruskin Park with my sturdy Walkman by my side, it was always this song that would bring me back to those hazy summers of sleepy afternoons and the faded grandeur of the French Riviera. When I think of summer, I cannot help but hum; music is heat and life and love.

Later on as I grew up summer became about escapism and relief from the monotony of an inner London school where music meant Spice Girls not Lou Reed. Those summer holidays were a chance to remember what it was like to be me again, not an awkward 13 year old who chose Proust over play-dates. The summer of 2009 I was 15, and I fell in love. The fact that he was 3 times my age and happened to be dead didn’t matter; George Harrison was my world for 8 weeks and nothing but nothing could tear me away from All Things Must Pass. Music helped me grow up during those blistering summers of my youth; it provided not just the soundtrack to an uncertain adolescence but the guidebook to surviving life. It connected me to something outside myself, something I couldn’t bare to be without.

Cecilia’s Top 5

Canned Heat – Going Up The Country

Van Morrison – It’s All Over Now Baby Blue

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

It’s a Beautiful Day – White Bird

Francoise Hardy – Le Temps De L’Amour

Will’s story

Will is a London-based art graduate and a constant summer traveller. As I write this, he’s working as part of an art project in Estonia. We wish him luck. 

My first memories of summer come from being in the back of the car, four years old; silent all the way to Devon, as The Beatles’ Revolver plays on the car stereo. But the quiet child of my memories fades when ‘Good Day Sunshine’ comes on.

For the past few years, my summers have been about engaging the four-year-old me by running away from my familiar city and finding myself in strange, new adopted countries. My only agenda becomes making new friends and creating more valuable memories. In these memories I live a parallel life, where my family comprises people from all over the world. Our home is a beach with a mystical history that lies between patches of forest and mountains. Every night is a session of eating, drinking and singing next to gentle lapping waves, under a clear ceiling of stars, with the sand as our beds.

I am referring to the Praia do Mar de Fora, where I’ve returned every year since walking the Camino de Santiago in 2011. Every time I hear ‘Soladito Marinero’ by Fito y Los Fitipaldis, for all of its cheesy Americana, it brings back to me those beautiful Spaniards, Italians, Germans, Danes, and the many others who would sing with me by the fire.

Will’s Top 5

The Beatles – Good Day Sunshine

DeVotchka – How It Ends

Midlake – We Gathered In Spring

Sam Cooke – Chain Gang

Fito y Los Fitipaldis – Soladito Marinero