Simone Greenwood grew up in Cumbria, but has lived in the Sirhowy Valley, south Wales for the last two decades, raising her family, teaching, and fostering. More recently, she has worked for Arts Council of Wales’ Arts and Education Network, and with children’s publishers Burst and Firefly Press. In 2021, she co-founded Ymaginosity, an organisation devoted to nurturing young storytellers. Simone writes children’s fiction and short films. She won Best Film and Best Script at It’s My Shout Awards 2019, and her short film, Tabard aired on BBC Wales. Her Christmas romcom, Jangle was selected for the Pride Online Film Festival and has been widely viewed internationally.
Read Simone’s creative response to her time on Representing Wales below.
The (Music-loving) Cows are Coming
Music has always been a vital and eclectic part of my life. I was raised in a strict religious home, so church music was the foundation, but I expanded that into a love of Black gospel, then soul, R&B, and disco, and squirrelled ‘devil music’ on mix tapes recorded by school friends, who lent me their own tastes of pop, indie, and rock. But the biggest influence was Mr Dixon, my headteacher. We started every assembly listening to music, followed by his potted history of the artist and piece. Everything you could possibly imagine from Grieg’s Peer Gynt and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. I soaked them all up with wide-earred wonder.
So it’s no surprise I’ve never had a preferred band or artist, or even genre. I can get a hit of dopamine from them all. Same with writers, artists, books and films. Sometimes I’ve tried to settle on a favourite, feeling jealous of ride-or-die fans, but now I embrace my eclecticity. I’ve realised it’s the energy that powers my creativity, and after a recent light-bulb-moment ADHD diagnosis, I’m learning how to harness (but not tame) it. Which brings me to the point of this blog post; how my love of music influences my writing, and how my place on the Representing Wales 2022 programme has taken that to the next level.
Galileo, my children’s novel in progress, is inspired by a hidden gem in the Wye Valley. Founded by brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward on their working farm, Rockfield Studios has seen the likes of Queen, Rush, Oasis and The Stone Roses stay, write and record there over the last six decades. Literature Wales covered the cost of a visit, where I had a tour from Kingsley Ward followed by a night’s stay in a bedroom previously occupied by John Deacon, Shane MacGowan, Chris Martin and more. Martin apparently wrote Coldplay’s Yellow in the bathroom next door, inspired by looking up at the stars shining over Rockfield.
The song’s theme of unwavering devotion is channelled in Galileo, along with the legendary Bohemian Rhapsody, which Mercury finished writing and Queen recorded on the farm. Getting the chance to be present in that space was game-changing. Creative energy was tangible in the air, and I like to think that even though we looked up at different variations of the night sky, our feet were stood on the same gravel in the same courtyard. I hope to return soon.
Another game changer has been the mentorship aspect of the Representing Wales programme. My mentor is author Patrice Lawrence, and I’m delighted she accepted when approached by Literature Wales. I hugely admire her award-winning storytelling, and her writing inspires me to hone my craft. I also relate to her love of music, a fact demonstrated by us both turning up to a recent mentoring s
ession wearing band t-shirts (Gorillaz and Blondie in case you’re interested). Her wisdom has helped shape my story and improve on plot and POV, and she’s keeping me on track to get a first draft finished.
Set in 1976, Galileo is the story of a newborn calf, hoping twins Cam and Dylan, plus punk-loving babysitter Gwen, can spare him from the fate normally befalling males on a dairy farm. Like his namesake, an astrologer convicted of heresy, Galileo is fascinated by the stars but soon labelled a devil by the Matrons, a sinister bovine sisterhood who blame him for the summer’s heatwave, drought and plague of biting ladybirds. There’s no word-weaving spider to save him, à la Charlotte’s Web, but there is new rock band CLUD who are recording at a studio on neighbouring Maes Roc Farm – a fictional version of Rockfield.
A final way the programme has impacted Galileo, and me, is through a beginner’s Welsh retreat at Tŷ Newydd. The wonderful tutors, Delyth and Siân, took the terror out of dysgu Cymraeg and replaced it with joy at the beauty of the language. I’m inspired to add some Welsh words and phrases to the book, alongside the South Wales dialect. And I’m taking David Lloyd George’s last words, spoken in the lyfrgell at Tŷ Newydd, as a sign of approval: mae’r gwartheg yn dod / the cows are coming.