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BBC Family Proms 2021

Fantastic music, a creative brief and a chance to work with the Proms Family team at the BBC! What wasn't to like about this month's wonderful project. This year's family proms will feature 'The Carnival of the Animals' (Saint Saëns), and Michael Morpurgo will be joining the amazing Kanneh-Mason family of musicians, who are playing the piece.

A host of artists have designed family-friendly activities to go with the music for the website and I chose to work with a two-minute movement, 'The Cuckoo in the Dark Woods'. It's a peaceful, visual and whimsical - a tone poem, in which Saint Saëns wields rhythm (andante, walking pace), perspective (the cuckoo-clarinettist plays off-stage) and mood, to create a stunning little scene. You can listen to The Cuckoo in the Dark Woods here...

My activity involved listening to the music and perhaps taking a new look at the cuckoo - normally seen as signalling sunnier days to come for the UK. But beyond that iconic call of spring - like so many others - the cuckoo is a bird that migrates around the world, and for most of its year, is a resident of Sub-Saharan Africa. Each bird is a traveller beyond compare, journeying tens of thousands of miles in a lifetime, flying very high, often at night, across cities, seas and deserts. If ever we needed to question the human construct of borders and nationalism - migrating birds reveal a far more interconnected version of the world.

Writing the script for my piece to camera was great, but self-filming, is another matter! I have a dyslexic/language-processing oddity, that means I spoonerise... a lot! Swapping not just consonants, but vowels too. This means that after far too many retakes, I was pretty convinced that Arnival of the Cainvals, or Canival of the Arnivals was the title that Saint Saëns had in mind all along!

With covid still looming large in our lives, it is great to see family-friendly events such as this... and the BBC Proms Family team were great to work with (instantly designing me a cuckoo migration map) and very understanding when I filmed myself sideways. The website looks full of brilliant activities for families and schools. I it has plenty of visits this year.. (and cross fingers/feathers some will be there to create cuckoo poems too!)

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