Tuesday 11 December 2018

'By some miracle we got there on time, then Ed Sheeran appeared at our table'

Shane MacGowan's songwriting has been saluted by the stars, writes his partner Victoria Mary Clarke

Tribute: Shane MacGowan with Aidan Gillen, who presented his award at the Ivor Novello ceremony. All photos: Mark Allan
Tribute: Shane MacGowan with Aidan Gillen, who presented his award at the Ivor Novello ceremony. All photos: Mark Allan

Victoria Mary Clarke

When we were told that my partner Shane MacGowan was getting the Ivor Novello Inspiration Award last Thursday (and that it was top secret) I casually mentioned it to a few people who looked at me with blank faces. So I will fill you in.

Ivor Novello himself (aka David Ivor Davies) was a Welsh songwriter/composer/actor who was mega famous in the First World War years for such hits as Keep The Home Fires Burning and many more.

The award in his name was instituted in 1956 by the British Academy of Songwriters Composers and Authors, so it is judged by actual songwriters and is the self-proclaimed ''pinnacle of musical achievement and peer recognition''.

So we were pleased.

Shane was totally thrilled when he learned that his award would be presented by Aidan Gillen - who is one of his heroes.

Myself? I was especially pleased to learn that Ed Sheeran would be there - because I wanted his autograph for my niece Anna May, whose birthday it was.

Winners: Ed Sheeran and Stormzy performing together
Winners: Ed Sheeran and Stormzy performing together

We got a shock when we were told that we would be needed in the Great Room of the Grosvenor House Hotel in London's Park Lane by noon at the latest. An outrageous time of day for traditionally nocturnal rock stars!

We stayed in the hotel the night before - just to be on the safe side - and bumped into Billy Ocean coming out of the loo.

Upstairs, outside our room, a bunch of hotel staff were whispering about Ed Sheeran and it occurred to me that if he was in the room next to ours, I could sneak in and nick his sheets and bathrobe for my niece. Or for ebay.

By some miracle, we made it to the ballroom just as the hors d'oeuvres were being whisked out - Shane resplendent in a classic black suit, white shirt and giant crucifix, me in a gold tunic and jeans.

Just as I popped a piece of beetroot in my mouth, Ed Sheeran appeared at our table, having come over to meet Shane. He is awfully cute in real life, just for the record. He also has an adorably sweet smile.

As he was talking to Shane, I (rudely) grabbed his arm (clad in a rather fetching soft green suede jacket) and told him that it was my niece's 15th birthday. Before I could say anything else, he had grabbed my phone and was making a video for her.

It did horrify me that I have turned into one of those people who behaves like they are hunting big game when they meet celebrities - but for Anna May I felt it was worth it, and we were invited to hang with him later, so I suspect he was not offended.

As they began the presentations, I was struck by the vastly different types of artists on the stage. They included Stormzy, Dave, Elbow, Billy Bragg, Cathy Dennis, Lionel Richie and Billy Ocean as well as Ed Sheeran.

On the one hand, there were those who were smart and business-like and diplomatic, people like Ed Sheeran who were charming and who thanked the industry, who spoke about writing songs in teams.

On the other hand, people like Shane who have no sense of diplomacy, who don't even think of thanking the industry, and who can only write when they feel intensely inspired to do it, and have no business sense whatsoever.

Some of them were impassioned and political, like Billy Bragg, some let their emotions run away with them, like Billy Ocean who thanked Jesus and who cried openly and movingly throughout his standing ovation. I was reminded of Amy Winehouse, who got three Ivor Novellos, but was most famous for turning up late and wasted in blood-stained shoes.

Songwriting is an art and a craft, but it is also an industry. Thinking of Amy got me also to thinking about all the sensitive souls who get destroyed by it, and the ones who make beautiful music but don't get recognition.

We were in a room full of the lucky ones, people like Eric Clapton who could have succumbed to addiction but survived, and people who for whatever reason have made it to the top of their game.

And I realised two things. One is that we the public are the lucky ones, because music is medicine for the soul. And the other is that, awards or no awards, anyone who makes music is doing a good thing. And it takes all sorts to do it, the smart ones and the sensitive souls, and everything in between.

Sunday Independent

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