For the years that I was head of Dartington Hall Junior School the children and I combined to produce a musical every summer. Land of Music, the first of them, had improvised dialogue, but I wrote all the songs and music. The Girl with a Million Wishes had much more improvised dialogue, but I was still the librettist and composer. After that the children became more closely involved, and often wrote at least some of the lyrics, and by the time of Paradise Camp I had some help with the tunes as well. The orchestration was always done with the particular musicians in mind, so in The Sweet Story, for instance, there was one song accompanied only by four cellos, three of which only had to play open strings or first position, and the toymaker’s song was accompanied by a six-year-old girl who popped up out of a musical box and played a concertina someone had brought from home that had only four keys.

Here are the lyrics of two songs that I wrote, and one written co-operatively by the class I was teaching:

The toymaker’s song, from Sweet Story


I make toys
For you to treat as you get treated.
I make toys
To comfort you when you’re defeated.
I make toys that you can tread upon
Or bash about the head
Or take to bed instead.
I make toys.


Puppets, puppets, loose and jerky,
Hands like mittens, mouths like traps.
Slow and sad or quick and perky,
Drop the strings and we collapse.


I make toys
To bring you battles, death and glory,
I make toys
To act your most exciting story,
I make toys to shoot and fight
Or even die for your delight
And then are quite all right.
I make toys.


Ready for your secret mission.
We are men who must obey.
Put us in the right position,
Stand us up and there we stay.


I make toys
To hear your whispers when you hold them,
I make toys
To keep your secrets that you’ve told them.
I make toys you can depend on
To admire you and defend you
And be friends to the end.
I make toys.


Janey, from The Girl with a Million Wishes

One of Janey’s wishes has been to be approved of by her teacher. This is the teacher’s song after she has made this wish.

I am driven quite wild
By the studious child
Who is busy from Monday to Friday.
I much prefer one
Who has time for some fun
And is not too incredibly tidy.
She is pretty and gay
And quite bright, in her way,
And friendly and graceful and zany.
Have you all guessed her name?
Come on, really, for shame,
Surely you know it’s Janey.

Her memory, for sure,
Is endearingly poor
But it stops her from being conceited.
In the geography test
She scored less than the rest,
But it proves that she couldn’t have cheated.
She’s a bit of a flirt,
She loves playing with dirt
And adores getting wet when it’s rainy,
But you lot are so prim
That it’s practically grim.
Why can’t you be like Janey.

Janey is my favourite, it’s true.
One shouldn’t have favourites, but what can I do?
Janey, Janey, Janey, oooh!
There’s never been a girl like Janey.

She won’t work with a will
In the classroom, but still,
She loves to spend hours in the stables.
Her maths isn’t right,
But it’s quite a delight.
She’s original too, in her tables.
She sings out of key
But it fascinates me.
She’s really amazingly brainy,
Which the rest of you lot
Are most definitely not.
Why can’t you be like Janey?


Paradise Camp (extracts)

In Paradise Camp
The tents are damp,
The food is foul
And the blue winds howl.
There’s nothing to do
And there isn’t a loo.
You live like a tramp in Paradise Camp.

Here comes Brains. He’s terribly vain.
He’s invented a radio-powered train.
He makes us sick with arithmetic.
He thinks everyone else is terribly thick.

Dit dit dah goes a bit far.
He’s always picking the scab on his scar.
Mr Roche is terribly posh,
And his very rudest word is ‘gosh’.

Felicia’s gym makes us feel grim,
But at everything else she’s terribly dim.
As for Amanda, she couldn’t act grander,
But all of the rest of us just can’t stand her.

Hilary screams when she has bad dreams.
She’s afraid she’ll fall apart at the seams.
Emily cries when she finds dead flies.
She’s even frightened of Morecambe and Wise.

In Paradise Camp
The tents are damp,
The food is foul
And the blue winds howl.
There’s nothing to do
And there isn’t a loo.
You live like a tramp
In Paradise Camp.

Other titles included The Bobbly Bees, Which Witch is Which?, Happy Hotel, Superjuice and The Concert (which never gets started because of a variety of extraordinary interruptions). They illustrate the increased involvement of my collaborators.