Monday, 10 August 2009

Creative people: Misha Somerville

After my last post about John and Layla turning their hand to good food and gallery running, it got me thinking about all the creative people I’ve had the privilege to meet through my work in climbing.

There are some common themes among them for sure, but also each of them has their own lessons and perspectives to offer that are so inspiring and educating in their own way. So I thought I’d start a wee blog series bringing some of them to your attention, both to share the discovery of the fruits of their efforts and maybe to learn from them too.

Misha Somerville is one of these inspirations, never far from my attention over the years as his music is high on my ‘most played’ tunes on my ipod. I was first introduced to his band Croft No. 5 at a gig in Glasgow several years ago, and have travelled, trained and pounded my way up mountain paths with their reels whistling through my head ever since.

But since Croft No. 5 split up a couple of years back, I often wondered where that creative energy is channeled when the focus of bands disappears? I actually tried to track Croft No. 5 down last year to arrange permission to use some of their music on our fist film Echo Wall, but without success.

So it was a nice surprise earlier this year to get a message from Misha, appreciating our work (and music choice!) on Echo Wall and talking a bit about what he’s doing now. Turns out he’s been climbing for one thing! But like many creative people I’ve met, he has diversified his activities to excel in many ever expanding areas, no doubt using the skills he’s learned from the initial discipline.

So after establishing various arms of his work in instrument making, design and photography, now he has made his first book which he took the trouble to send me. Like many first books, films, albums or any creative entity, it clearly contains a lot of honest and unfiltered aspects of the person behind it. The book was a creative outlet while Misha recovered from ME over the course of a year or so. The condition had developed after an extended trip across north Africa was cut short by contracting Malaria.

The book, Bamako Boom Boom takes us through Misha’s adventures well off the beaten track in North Africa. There’s no doubt he went to some considerable effort. and at times obvious risk to see the people and places behind the bubble of the normal tourist trails. It was nice also to read Misha’s reflections on what he saw and where this personal journey taught him, told with a succinct style and never self-indulgently.

I read this while I was in Spain on a sport climbing trip, and it provided just the engagement with a wider sense of adventure in what the world offers that balanced out the narrow focus of pure sport climbing. In fact it really reaffirmed in my mind why I go trad climbing to the weird and wonderful corners that Scotland has to offer. I don’t know why but I didn’t really expect a book like this to do that.

The first chapter can be read here. Misha’s blog is here.


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