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Travel + Fun

22nd Jul 2019

Last year I brought my ten-month-old to rock camp in Berlin and she loved it

Melissa Carton

This time last year I attended an all-female rock camp in Berlin with my 10-month-old daughter.

Whenever I say that to people I get mixed reactions of ‘that’s so cool’ and ‘sorry what?’

But yes, exactly one year ago my daughter and I hopped on a plane to Berlin to rock out with some of the most talented up and coming musicians in Europe.

Believe it or not, it all happened because I couldn’t sleep one night…

Yes, my insomnia finally paid off.

One night I was fighting with myself trying to fall asleep and finally gave up and started scrolling through Facebook on my phone. In my home feed, a post appeared from Girls Rock Dublin saying that they were looking for two people to join their group travelling to Berlin on an all-expenses paid trip to rock camp. The only requirement was to identify as female and be aged between 18 and 30.

I thought hey I’m a female between the ages of 18 and 30 and I wanna go to rock camp. I started typing away an application on my phone, only for the document app not to work on my phone, so I hauled myself out of bed and started from scratch on my laptop.

The application form asked what was the reason I wanted to attend and I knew straight away. While I’ve always been more than happy to get up on stage and perform something that someone else has written I was petrified to perform music that I’d written myself.

I don’t know why. I’ve had people critic my articles and plays that I’ve written but for some reason, I couldn’t put my music out there to be judged.

I remember reading a quote by Wayne.W.Dyer that said ‘don’t die with your music still in you’ and it’s been haunting my thoughts for years. As much as I agreed with him I continued to put music on the back burner, sure I’m in my 20s I’ve loads of time to record something, but three years ago something happened that changed my perspective.

In late 2015 I got a phone call telling me my younger cousin had died in an accident. He had been out during a storm and was knocked into the River Liffey in Dublin. He was 20. Suddenly time didn’t seem infinite, all of a sudden it got very short. It made me realise how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye and how much you have to make every day count. I sent off my application and a few days later was told it had been accepted. So it began.

On July 22 myself, Alice and the rest of the Girls Rock Dublin gang boarded a flight to Berlin to attend Music Empowerment Mobility Exchange or MEME for short.

Originally I was just going to go childfree, but the closer it got to the trip the more anxious I got about leaving Alice so fairly last minute I organised to bring her with me.

After getting a bit confused about how to get from the airport to FEZ in the Wuhlheide park where the camp was being held we finally arrived. I would love to say that I was the picture of cool but I hadn’t slept in 24 hours because we had a super early flight, I was overwhelmed at the thought of managing a teething baby solo for eight days and well I had a complete nervous breakdown.

Yep day one, I was the girl that cried at camp. The Irish group leader Karen came to my aid and told me ‘the first day is always the hardest, it’ll be grand, have a banana’, which I am going to get printed on a t-shirt.

Alice, on the other hand, was not crying and was instead having a ball roaming around the campgrounds. We don’t have a garden where we live so she was making full use of all the outdoor space. While I was at band practice Alice was looked after by the partner of the camp organiser Dave, who would be watching Alice along with his own daughter GG.

During the day I would rehearse with my band, The Dishwashers, and our coaches and in the evenings and days with less to do, I would head to the lake with Alice or take a train into Berlin city centre.

Alice was loving all the stimulation and extra attention from all of the campers. There were participants from all across Europe and I caught her babbling with different accents several times. She also learned how to say ‘bitte’ the German word for please.

While I was at rehearsals one day Alice and GeGe attended a voice looping workshop, so I’m expecting some really cool experimental music from them in the future.

There was so much available to do during the week, from workshops in music and writing during the day and karaoke and danceoke during the night. There was also a concert of Berlin bands on Wednesday night but unfortunately, I had to give it a miss as it was way past someone’s bedtime.

During the four days that we have to come up with original material, my band and I wrote two full songs and on Saturday, all seven bands that were formed during the camp got to perform their tracks at a concert.

It was a baptism of fire. I went from being terrified of singing something I wrote in front of people to gigging in Berlin. Alice was her usual supportive self and slept through most of the show.

Most night’s after dinner I chilled with Alice in our cabin but on Saturday night Maebh and Dave offered to keep an eye on her so I could hang out with everyone for our last night at camp.

Apart from gaining more confidence myself, Alice became much more confident in her efforts to walk and talk and was constantly on the lookout for new places to explore and new people to chat to. Mostly she was confident about getting absolutely covered in muck leading to her twice-daily showers.

When I first arrived back it all still felt surreal not living with dozens of other women, and even though I usually like a bit of peace and quiet, my apartment is was suddenly too quiet.

It was eight days that felt so much longer but too short at the same time. The first couple of days I was awkwardly adjusting to everything and by the time I was immersed in it all we had to go home.

I really wish that it could have last for two weeks, ok I’m lying I wish it could have lasted all summer.

The hardest part was saying goodbye to everyone and knowing that apart from the girls in the Irish group, I wouldn’t be able to casually meet up and hang out with the people I became friends with anymore. It was particularly hard with the other band members and I’m still trying to figure out if there’s any way to crowdfund for a reunion.

The camp was an amazing experience for both Alice and I and organisers Maebh and AuðR should be really proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Alice’s fans from the camp will be happy to know that she is now the proud owner of her own mini drum kit and ukelele and is still very much a fan of Rage Against the Machine. You can take the girl out of rock camp but you can’t take rock camp out of the girl.