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This isn’t a conventional music memoir. There are no hit records, no celebrity anecdotes and no tales of remorse after episodes of excess and debauchery. Instead there is a story about boy growing up in a small town on the Kent coast in the 1970s, who falls in love with music, learns to play the guitar and dreams of heading out onto the open road and singing out loud with a head full of songs. He likes deeply unfashionable music, is never cool and makes questionable fashion choices. But he writes songs that seem to express the complications and contradictions of life around him, though when the time comes to make choice he is not brave enough to try and do it for a living.
Time passes but the desire to explain the world through lyrics and music never goes away. And as the years go by it gets harder and harder to risk making a fool of himself, of doing the very thing he would most like to do, of actually being himself. Eventually, 35 years later, when it feels like time is running out, desire overcomes anxiety and he walks out onto a stage in front of 500 people and begins to sing again.
There follows an extraordinary journey of self-discovery as he performs in pubs, clubs, theatres and festivals and experiences what it really means to live the dream.
On The Road Not Taken is a love story about the transformational power of music, it is an account of a 1970s childhood, it tells of overcoming anxiety to experience the ecstasy of performance. If you have heard any of Paul Dodgson’s acclaimed memoir plays on BBC Radio 4 you will know how he amplifies small details from the past to shine a light on the present day. There will be all this and more in On The Road Not Taken.
Paul Dodgson is a writer, radio producer, teacher and musician. Paul joined the BBC as a studio manager and went on to become a producer making programmes for all BBC Radio networks. In 2001 Paul left the BBC and has since written 16 plays for BBC Radio 4 and been a member of the Eastenders writing team. In the theatre Paul has written several plays for young people and been commissioned to write music and lyrics for five musicals including The Nutcracker at Theatre Royal Bath and Nuffield Southampton. Paul has taught creative writing around the world, has been writer-in-residence at Exeter University and a Hawthornden Fellow. Paul has a particular interest in teaching techniques of memoir writing and three of his BBC radio plays have told life stories including On The Road Not Taken, which began life on BBC Radio 4.
I am sitting in the dark with 500 other people. Way below me on the stage of the Bristol Old Vic is a choir, filling this theatre with the most beautiful sound. I start to count them but when I get to 48 there is a tap on my shoulder. It is Jo who is responsible for artist liaison. I am an artist.
Paul. It’s time. Follow me. I'll take you round the back.
I stand up and do as I am told. We pass through narrow corridors and down winding staircases - and emerge in the wings. It is dark. I breathe in the backstage smell of woodyard, mingled with a distant bouquet of fresh paint.
All around are people dressed in black talking quietly into headsets. I can see sideways out on to the stage where there are a group of actors performing a sketch. They say something funny and there is a wave of laughter so loud it makes me step back into the darkness. Jo approaches again.
Ok Paul stand by.
I strap on my guitar and wipe sweaty palms on my trousers. You know those dreams where you are about to do something you feel completely unprepared for? Then you wake up and you’re in bed at home? Well it is like that, except I am really here.
Ladies and gentlemen. An announcer steps into the spotlight. Our next act is here to sing you some songs. He’s wanted to do this for a long time and from today he is out ‘ON THE ROAD NOT TAKEN’. Please give a substantial round of applause for Paul Dodgson.
I stand rooted to the spot and Jo gives me a little shove.
Paul. That’s your cue. Have a great one. Smash it!
- 22nd August 2019 It Is Publication Day And Brand New Poppysong Recording + Video
After the years of singing in the kitchen, creeping on stage at Bristol Old Vic and venturing out on the road to pubs, clubs, festivals and living rooms in the UK and beyond, followed by the hard slog crowdfunding years and all the writing, On The Road Not Taken finally makes its way into the wider world today
It feels like the world is a much darker place than when I first started to do this,…22nd February 2019 Nearing The End Of The Road
Hello Dear Subscribers,
The end of the road is in sight! Since my last dispatch we have worked though the proofs of the book and these are now being collated at Unbound HQ. Also, excitingly, the front cover has been designed and I will be able to reveal this to you very soon.
This means the supporters list will close this Sunday night 24th Feb at midnight. After that it will not be possible…21st December 2018 Happy Christmas update from me
Hello Dear Subscribers,
I want to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and to update you on the progress of On The Road Not Taken.
Since my last update the book has been through two edits overseen by my brilliant editor Scott Pack that have really helped the flow of the story. The manuscript was then passed to my in-house editor, Ella Chappell who will nurture the book though the rest of the…6th August 2018 Latest news and BBC Radio 4 transmission.
Hello Dear Supporters,
It finally happened. In late June I was teaching a radio drama writing course at Ty Newydd on the Llyn Peninsula, when the pledge came in that took the total over 100%. There followed a period of intense writing, followed by the strange moment of standing over the laptop, hand hovering over the send button. I pressed it and the first draft went off to my editor, Scott…4th May 2018 Nearly there. Can you help make this happen?
Dear Subscribers. The book is now 87% funded. Please can you help me by sharing this little piece far and wide on socal media. Thank you. Paul
This was me on the main stage of Bristol Old Vic in Feb 2016 singing in public for the first time in 30 years.
Two years and many gigs later and I know more about singing, stories, the voice, music and stage fright than I thought was possible…11th April 2018 A Vlog From The Front Line
Hello Dear Subscribers. 86% funded now and I am deep undercover writing the book. Just popped out for a moment to post this brief missive.15th December 2017 I have something to shout about!
Hello Dear Subscribers. Thanks to everyone who has come on board during the living room tour and subsequent weeks, the book is now 82% funded! That means only 18% to go. At long last it seems as if the end is in sight.
I reckon I need about another 50 subscribers to reach the finish line, so if there is anyone you know who might be interested please tell them about On The Road Not Taken…22nd November 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #6 Salcombe. 14th October
At Eastleigh I put on my headphones and disappear into my own world, missing an announcement that says my train has changed destination. That is why, after a diversionary ride though Hampshire, I have ended up here, in the Upper Crust on Southampton Central with an hour to spare, sitting by the window eating a mozzarella and tomato baguette. It occurs to me I could tell the story of my life…7th November 2017 End of Tour Update... individual blogs still to come.
I arrived home on Sunday evening after the most incredible month travelling across England and Wales singing songs and telling stories in living rooms and kitchens. I had never asked for help like this before and was awed by the generosity of everyone who opened up their homes and filled them with food, drink and lovely people. I told my stories and every night, after the gig, people came up and…27th October 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #5 Bishopstoke. October 13th.
With guitar on back I walk down the footbridge stairs at Eastleigh station. Glen is on the other side of the ticket barriers wearing an exotic hat, sporting a white beard and holding a walking stick. It is more than thirty years since we last met and we have both changed, but I recognise him right away. We head into town in search of a taxi.
Re-kindled friendships are one of the wonderful…24th October 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #4 Winchester University. October 12th.
Late afternoon sun on the meadows of the Itchen Valley. A blaze of autumn colour. A feast of memory. The train approaches Winchester.
It was on an autumn day 35 years ago I came here to take a degree in Drama, Theatre and Television Studies. By then I had stopped singing in front of people. Although I became immersed in recording and played the guitar whenever I could, I never actually sang…16th October 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #3 The Thunderbolt, Bristol. October 11th.
Newport station looks bleak this rainy afternoon as I step on to the platform and discover a missed connection. Avoiding water cascading though holes in the roof, I make my way to a bench next to the closed down WH Smiths kiosk. Next to me is an old man in washed out fleecy trousers. He looks at me for a moment then raises his hand in an invitation to high five. As I return the gesture he snatches…9th October 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #2 (in a hall) The Isle of Portland, Dorset 26th September 2017
I wake early and lay still, enjoying the deep silence of the woods outside my bedroom. When it is light I lift the blind to see the hills shrouded in a fine mist. There is such a sense of peace in this place and the welcome so warm, it is hard to say goodbye. Pete drives me though the Dorset countryside to Bridport where I will catch a bus to the next gig.
This is where I came on holiday…6th October 2017 Living Room Tour Gig #1. Axminster, Dorset 25th Sept 2017
I leave home with a small guitar and a backpack and lock the front door. I have been sleeping badly and last night only managed three hours, so went out running along the River Taff this morning to wake up and for a while it has worked. Now, stepping into the taxi, under a brooding grey sky, I am overwhelmed by a wave of tiredness that lasts from Cardiff to somewhere down the line in Somerset…5th October 2017 Live in Bristol 11th October
Hello Dear Subscribers,
Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who has come on board recently.
The Living Room Tour began last week with two gigs in Dorset. I willbe telling the story of the tour in blogs and the first will appear here soon.
The big news is that next Wednesday 11th October I am performing songs and stories from On The Road Not Taken in my favourite music venue in Bristol…23rd August 2017 Please can I appear in your living room?
Hello Dear Supporters.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who has signed up in the last couple of months. I am very grateful.
It is time to get this show back on the road.
Do you have a space in your home that fits 15 or more people? Would you like to host a very special, pop up musical event?
The idea is very simple; I come for free and perform an intimate song and story show in…11th July 2017 Moving On
Hello dear subscribers. It has been a while I know. I have been living though an intense few months writing words, running workshops and writing music for different shows, including the soundtrack for an adaptation of The Borrowers running at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon until the end of August.
And then I moved.
After 13 years love, loss and laughter, children growing up, plays written and…10th May 2017 One Third Of The Way There + Hal An Tow
Hello Dear Subscribers,
The book is now one third of the way to publication thanks to your generous support. Things have slowed down a bit in the last few weeks as I took time off the campaign trail to start writing a musical about tattoos, trigger samples in a live broadcast with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and go to the wonderful Isles of Scilly to read poems to older people, run a writing…10th April 2017 30% and Thank You All
Hello Dear Supporters,
We have now reached 30% of the funding target with 112 people signed up. So a big thank you to everyone who has come on board so far. It was never going to be easy and is going to take a while, but I am determined to get this book out into the world.
So in the months ahead I am planning to run a series of writing workshops and events to promote the book…17th March 2017 Writing ME
Often, it feels selfish, in these dark days of Trump/Brexit/refugee crisis/Syria/famine in Africa, to be writing a book about Me. Then I look back over the messages received after On The Road Not Taken went out on Radio 4, and I see people who I don’t know, telling their own stories back to me. I hope that is what happens with the book. I tell one story, but there is space for the reader to relive…13th March 2017 25% hurrah + bye bye shed + sunglasses + smoothies + Poppysong
And then the counter on the website showed that the book was 25% funded. So time for a wide ranging vlog of profound thanks.7th March 2017 Making a Music Video
Here is a blog I wrote last year about making a video to accompany the song Brislington Diamonds.
Nearly at 25% funding. I may have a special video party to celebrate the moment. Meanwhile I hope you enjoy this...
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon. I strap on my guitar on Bristol’s harbourside. My daughter and her partner fire up their cameras. I start singing along to a song that…23rd February 2017 New Extract. It is June 1975 and I want to buy a record...
Here is a short extract from my work in progress memoir On The Road Not Taken. I am 13 years old and have saved up enough money to by a record. It is a big event having this much money and so stands out as a memory. Because there are two narratives in the book running concurrently, one from childhood and one set in the present, I am experimenting with writing the past story in the second…24th January 2017 Thank you
Thank you very much for subscribing to my book. I am very grateful. Here in the shed I will be posting blogs and videos that only you can see and these will tell the story of the book writing process as I progress. I will share the highs and lows of the adventure as I head down the road towards the beautifully designed hard covers that are just over the horizon. So far I have been out on the road…
These people are helping to fund On The Road Not Taken.
Sophie Sophie Cottle
Ant Clarke Cowell