Martyn Joseph is a performer like no other: Shades of Springsteen, John Mayer, Bruce Cockburn and Dave Matthews there may be - but he stands in his own right, built on a reputation for giving what thousands have described as the best live music experience of their lives delivering his "songs of lyrical intelligence" according to BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris.

April 13, 2000 2:49 pm

Martyn returns to School..

On the 13th April Martyn was the guest of honour at his old school, Stanwell in Penarth. He presented over 150 prizes to pupils from the school for various achievements and addressed for 15 mins the gathered parents, teachers, various dignitaries and pupils.

He also sang ‘Cardiff Bay’ and ‘All This Time’ ending the evening with ‘Please Sir’ accompanied by the school choir. The British astronaut Michael Foale who fixed the Space Station Mir was also a special guest. The school has links with NASA after a former pupil, Geoff Mules, help to found the International Space School, which runs educational exchange programmes between Welsh and American students

The following are exerpts from Martyn’s speech

“Ladies and Gentlemen….

I recognise the honour of being asked to take part in the ceremony today though I’m not sure what my actual credentials are. One of the nice things for me to reflect on is the fact that both my Father and Grandfather went to school at Stanwell, I guess it was Penarth Grammar School then.

I’m sure I should say something about my own time here in Stanwell though I’m not convinced you should be party to the information I could pass on! Stanwell is of course now renown for its music department, its wasn’t however when I was here! I’m ashamed to announce to you all that I failed my music O level at Stanwell, un-classified I believe!

School was a mixed bag of blessings for me. At the time, I wasn’t a fan. It’s an old cliché I know to say that they were the best days of ones life etc, and to come to realise this when its too late. However, they were not the best days of my life, though I do realise now that they were a lot better than I thought. In many ways I would like to go back and learn all that stuff now as I think I would be far more receptive to an education. Many of the guys and girls I was in school with seemed to have a sense of confidence about them that I often lacked. I hadn’t discovered what I was good at and suffered with a lack of assurance because of this. This would often surface in bizarre ways and my ‘Elvis’ impersonations were legendary at the time. I say this for those that might feel a little that way tonight. Hey, its ok, you will find your way and your time. Mark Twain once said that life would be easier if we started at eighty and worked backwards. We are not afforded that luxury but, if we were, now would be a good time for me to start class.

What do I say to the younger folk gathered here today? I’m a big fan of the philosophy of journeying. I think very differently now to the way I did, say,15 years ago. To some extent you can only see from where you stand and it takes either a lot of compassion and understanding to see something from a different point of view or you need to go through ‘stuff’ your self to experience and know how others feel. I guess the turning point for me came when I visited a third world situation. I was asked by a relief agency to observe some situations in Thailand and to try and write some songs that would reflect my gut reactions. Having visited some leprosy missions and Camoer Rouge refugee camps on the Thai border I was taken to a slum in Bangkok city. In what can only be described as a thin concrete dirty shack I sat at the feet of a crippled and handicapped girl in her late teens. She very rarely left this room and yet as she bowed and smiled at me I felt a strange peace. To the non-believer I guess this would be a moment of confirmation that God didn’t exist and if He did he was cruel. For me it was one of the most religious moments of my life and it made me realise many things, lessons that I so quickly forget. As I looked into the eyes of this young girl I realised I couldn’t continue to sing about easy fixes and answers, the picture was changing from black and white to one full of many colours and I couldn’t ignore them. Hence, contradiction, doubt, questions…wonderful things. Give yourself the luxury of questions, embrace mystery. There will always be something about yourself, others, something that happens that wont fit into your picture, that doesn’t mean you have to write off everything, it just means you don’t know everything, you are not all knowing, all seeing. It made me tougher, it made me aware of a bigger picture and it changed my lyrics

In a recent poll in the USA, folk were asked to vote for their people of the century. It might surprise you to know that there wasn’t one person in the top six who was not a person of faith and commitment to humanity. People like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ma Ghandi. Bill Gates wasn’t there, even in celebrity mad USA.. We live in an age of tremendous technical breakthrough and achievement all designed to make us more prosperous and well off. However, the gap between rich and poor has never been greater, people are marginalised, broken, often without hope. What is the point of having the greatest stock exchange in the world if you cant send your children to school without the serious threat of them being shot? So maybe we need to think beyond the technological sometimes and look at the soul. Time to think bigger ideas and thoughts of how relationships can work, families hang in there, who we are and why we are here. You may not find answers to all those questions but you can start looking. Don’t be seduced then by a world that says the dollar is king. Stuff that! People are the most important commodity, your buddies, and mates, friends that you met in this school that will be with you always. Most important thing….keep going, keep going, don’t give up, lean on another a while, find that strength from somewhere, make that connection somewhere with a belief that this cant be all, that there is a higher love and hope.

Two musical heroes of mine (and musicians I would add are not the most stable of folk to get your life philosophies from) Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have said….

Dylan .. ‘no matter what you do, no matter where you go or think, you can never move beyond the love of God.

Springsteen.. ‘no body wins unless everybody wins’

Not a bad place to hang your coat eh, somewhere between those two? Maybe a way to start would be by making those who didn’t get a prize here tonight feel like they did. May the road rise up to meet you, may you run strong and free. Folk wont always remember what you looked like, they wont always remember who exactly you were or what it was you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Dream big dreams and don’t let anyone take them for you and if they try to, send em to me!

Thanks again for the privilege and honour you have given to me this night.”

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