On the 17th of March of this year, I received an email from the University of St Andrews and the R&A Golf Club of St Andrews to inform me that I had received their International Travel Scholarship. Before you ask, the answer is no, this will not involve me playing golf internationally. Thankfully. The scholarship was offered by the R&A to the University as a gift on their 600th anniversary, and is given to two students per year in order that they might pursue their travel dreams.
In order to receive the scholarship, I had to present a project and explain why I felt that I should be the recipient of this great gift. The project I proposed is based on music. If you haven't already noticed through this website, music is an integral part of my life and of my character. I have been playing as long as I can remember, and recently managed to achieve one of my greatest ambitions in releasing an album. However, my aim now is to gain more of an understanding about what music means to different people in different cultures, and also to grasp what powers music might have to heal and elevate both individuals and their communities.
I'm very wary about alluding to some attempt to "heal others" with my own music, since music is a personal and subjective form of communication. It means different things to different people, both in terms of how one hears it, and how one creates it. Instead, I wish to gain more of an understanding of the place music might have in elevating individuals from difficult or traumatic circumstances, and the role that it might play in terms of "therapy" and healing. "Music therapy" is a growing field of study, and one that I see as a hugely worthwhile pursuit. Whether it be through the generation of empathy between individuals, the solidification of an identity, the building of a community, or simply the sense of release that comes from singing a song with a group of people, the power of music emerges in many different ways.
On this vein, I will begin my travels working with a charity called We Are Here, working with refugees in the Nea Kavala camp in northern Greece. We Are Here was established in 2016 as a small group of individuals wished to create a community centre to offer education to adults and children who found themselves lost and directionless in the Nea Kavala camp. Since its establishment, the community centre has grown to offer new opportunities and activities for these individuals, including English lessons, children activity groups, theatre and gardening. They also recently established a 'Woman's Space', specifically created as a quiet space for women to take a break from their increasingly tough family lives.
With We Are Here, I will be doing whatever I can to contribute to teaching and other activities, as well as gradually introducing a musical element into my work. I have some initial ideas as to how this will take form, but I feel that it is vital to wait until I arrive at the camp and to adapt to the circumstances that I meet when I get there. I will be using this page both to update you on my progress, and also to try and inform about what life is like inside the Nea Kavala camp.
I'm very aware that in the world of social media, selfies and instagram filters, blogs or any form of online self-expression can, to an extent, become separated from reality and therefore rather unrealistic. During my travels I will endeavour to avoid this trap. I know already that this experience will build upon certain parts of my person, but it might also break down parts too. I wish to document both, and hopefully in this way might give a true impression of my experiences.
I don't want to keep you here for too long, as I know that it can be tiresome to read through hugely long posts, particularly in the quick-read lifestyle that we have become accustomed to. As a final note, however, you might ask what my title means. Well, in true songwriter style, I've decided that I will name each post after a lyric from a song. This particular lyric comes from a song by one of my ultimate loves - The Waterboys. I have chosen it because I feel that my life has always been surrounded by water and the metaphors that it inspires. When one embarks upon a new adventure, or a pivotal moment in their life, it often feels like "swimming" into the unknown and going somewhere greater and more vast, both in body and in mind.