Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Have You Watched Parkinson: Masterclass?

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An image from the television show Parkinson: Masterclass

Michael Parkinson and Jamie Cullum

I don’t usually talk about television programs on Creativity’s Workshop, but I couldn’t help myself with this one.

Parkinson: Masterclass has just started airing on Australian TV and I’ve really enjoyed the two episodes I’ve seen so far.

If you haven’t heard of the show, the basic premise is Michael Parkinson interviewing a number of artists who each specialise in a different creative field. During the interview they’re asked to explain their creative process.

It’s a wonderful change from the usual TV interviews because the setup provides artists opportunities to demonstrate how they create, rather than just spouting the usual cookie-cutter answers to questions like ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ There are also questions from the audience which can lead to interesting comments from the interviewees.

So far I’ve seen two interviews: one with Michael Morpurgo (a writer most famous for his novel War Horse) and Jamie Cullum (a singer/songwriter whose speciality is jazz piano).

Here are a few points I found especially interesting.

Interview with Michael Morpurgo

My family enjoyed this interview so much we actually clapped at the end as if we were somehow part of the studio audience. It was an insightful interview with interesting nuggets for both writers and readers alike.

Here are some points I especially liked:

  • As soon as Morpurgo started interacting with the members of the audience you could tell that he understood his readers and connected well with young children. He used to be a school teacher and tell his stories directly to the children. That experience definitely shows through his work and when watching him in person.
  • He didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. The success of telling stories to children that captured their attention eventually lead him into the writing profession. He did, however, fall in love with reading at an early age. It is his love of reading and storytelling that keeps him writing.
  • Being around children (his reading audience) helped him to know what worked and what didn’t.
  • Just because something has been done before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it again if you feel it serves the story. Because Black Beauty had been written from a horse’s POV, he was hesitant to do the same thing with War Horse. The event that changed his mind (watching a small child interacting with a horse) is so touching I can’t do it justice in this post.
  • He has a wonderful eye for detail and is always open to learning something new. The story of the child talking to the horse impacted him because he was paying attention to his surroundings, even on a dark and rainy evening. You never know when inspiration will hit or where you’ll learn something new. Being open to what’s going on around you can lead to all sorts of amazing experiences.

Interview with Jamie Cullum

I didn’t expect to get as much out of this interview because they focused on musical composition, but I was pleasantly surprised by what Cullum had to say about the creative process.

My favourite points are as follows:

  • Cullum sits at his piano for 45 minutes at a time, playing with chords and lyrics that take his interest. He records the session and then plays it back later. He may only use 10 seconds of what he came up with, but it’s worth the 45 minutes to find that 10 seconds.
  • You have to trust the process. Some days nothing happens, but he still sits at the piano anyway. He says you never know when you’ll get that idea. You have to turn up and play.
  • His enthusiasm for music comes across immediately. He loves jazz especially, but he enjoys music in general – whether it’s old or new. Some of his musical ideas come when he’s listening to recent pop songs while others come from the likes of Cole Porter.
  • When he plays the piano, you can tell he’s spent hours experimenting with the tune and the instrument. During one song he drummed on the wood of the piano and reached into the body of the piano to strum the strings. He’s not shy about experimenting and playing around with his art.

The two interviewees are quite different to each other in age, art and character, but there were some interesting similarities between them.

  • Both have a passion for their art. They enjoy creating and are always looking for ways to make their work better.
  • Both immerse themselves in their chosen field. Morpurgo loves reading and Cullum loves listening to music. They’re not afraid that this exposure will taint their unique voice. In fact, they use the inspiration to create new ideas and drive themselves forward.
  • Both are aware of their environment. Morpurgo was inspired by talking to a man at his local pub and watching a child speaking to a horse. These things turned into the novel War Horse. Cullum was inspired by a new song he heard at a nightclub that lead to his own rendition of it (during which he drummed on the piano as mentioned above).

I’m sure there are other similarities. Have you spotted some? Share them in the comments below.

I’m looking forward to watching the next interview!

What about you? Have you been inspired by a television show recently? Let us know which one.

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Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at www.jessicabaverstock.com or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

8 thoughts on “Have You Watched Parkinson: Masterclass?

  1. I love Parkinson, especially when he’s allowed to interview people in depth. I had no idea about this series and wouldn’t have found it if you hadn’t posted about it. Thanks! Off to share on Twitter.

  2. This is great. Thank you for sharing the main points. I’m going to try and watch this series of interview. I’ve always loved to read and to write but lately I feel I’ve lost the true reason for which I used to write. This comes with perfect timing,

    • No problem, Kanmuri. I always want to share things that have inspired me so others can enjoy them too.

      Over time our ‘true reason’ for writing can become lost in the maelstrom of everyday things. It’s always good to stop every now and then to find your reason again. That’s what gives you the motivation and energy to continue reading and writing.

      Let me know how you go with finding your true reason. 😉 If you need extra help, just let me know.

  3. I loved this, Jessica. So inspiring. I’ve never heard of Masterclass, but it sounds like a wonderful show. I just listened to an amazing 15 minute podcast from RadioLab included in an excellent blog post from Sarah Selecky. Here’s the link:

    http://www.sarahselecky.com/2013/not-knowing-is-the-goal/

    • That’s a really interesting interview. It’s always enlightening to listen to creative people describe their process.

      They face the same obstacles as we do, but they find unique ways to keep themselves positive and inspired.

      Thanks for sharing, Carole!

  4. Ohmyword, Jessica – I loved reading what Jamie Cullum shared in his interview (saw him in concert and was blown away!). I wish I could see the show, it looks awesome. Also love the way you shared your take from both the interviews – great stuff!

    • You might be able to find excerpts online or it might be repeated on your local TV channels. Worth watching if you get the chance. 🙂

      Jamie Cullum in concert must have been a great experience!

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