by Alan Quick
HUNDREDS of brightly-dressed people, on Friday, July 28, walked from Crediton’s Town Square and up through Crediton High Street to pay their respects to Nanette McClelland, who passed away on Wednesday, July 12, after a battle bravely fought with cancer.
They were following a beautifully decorated open-backed lorry, complete with butterflies and flowers, on which was Nanette’s coffin.
Nanette, who passed away at the young age of 60, had requested everyone wear bright and bold colours.
Pastor James Gregory welcomed everyone to Crediton Congregational Church, explaining that Nanette had been baptised at the church and had returned to regular worship there a few years before.
He said he had visited Nanette on many occasions during her final days in hospital, adding that she had organised the funeral service in great detail.
He said Nanette had the “knack of bringing people together”, “bringing good into our lives” and with “expectant optimism”.
In his welcome he introduced Nanette’s children, Tui, Heather, Jonjo, Angelina, Yah-wan and Yemanja and during the service many contributed with poetry, words or music.
Family friend Shirley spoke with affection of Nanette and said she had known her for about 25 years after she moved from Sandford to Crediton.
Shirley and other speakers spoke, often with great humour, about happy times shared with Nanette, who was an accomplished singer/songwriter.
There was mention of her African drumming classes and a video of a class was shown during the service.
Nanette was passionate about the power of music to heal both the mind and the body and music from her album, “Breathe”, released in December 2015, was played during the service.
For many years, Nanette had a particular interest in African music, and in the past her songwriting was heavily influenced by the rhythms and melodies of the Gambia and Sierra Leone.
She collaborated with renowned African musicians such as Ayodele Scott, Juldeh Camara, and former members of Ifang Bondi - one of the late BBC DJ John Peel’s favourite bands of all-time. During that time, Nanette also led numerous African drumming, singing and dancing workshops in schools all over the country.
Following a severe chronic illness spanning several years, and after being told she had liver cancer and may only have a short time to live, Nanette began exploring alternative healing methods, including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Matrix Re-imprinting, Heart Math, and Meta-Medicine.
ALBUM OF NEW SONGS
During that time, despite being very ill and afraid of what the future might hold, Nanette found that a batch of new songs were rapidly revealing themselves to her, even though she had not consciously decided to write any new material.
She explained in November 2015 that the experience was "feeling as though I had connected with the source of all creation. Tuning into this source led me to facilitate my own healing through spending time in nature, changing my diet, coming to terms with past emotional traumas, and practising various forms of mindfulness.”
She added: “I found that as I healed my emotional being, my physical health began to improve. Lo and behold, this feeling of well-being was then actually confirmed by a hospital scan showing that my tumour had shrunk to nothing. It was a miracle!”
Describing her album to the “Courier” in 2015, she said: “The message in these songs is that healing the self is totally possible. Through connecting to the beauty of this wonderful world, one can see the beauty and potential inside the self and each other. The songs are a meditative, healing journey of ancient rhythms combined with harmonious lilting melodies. This music alleviates stress, enables deep relaxation, and can also provide comfort for grief."
It was in 2014 that Nanette linked up with producer Steve Lovell (who previously worked with Blur, Holly Johnson and Julian Cope) and his wife, Rachel (former Dolly Mixtures vocalist and guitarist). Steve loved the songs and immediately offered to record and produce them at his home studio in Brighton.
These recording sessions led to the production of the album, “Breathe”, which was launched with a live performance at The Moose Hall in Crediton on December 5, 2015.
Karen With, celebrant, gave the eulogy at the service.
She said: “You will have your own memories of Nanette, this is a brief summary of her story as told to me via her children.
“She was a fighter right from the start, growing up with many challenges in Scotland during her hard early years.
“Leaving home at 15, she met Tui’s Dad Billy, who opened her eyes to what love could be. She found herself new friends and subsequently met Des who gave her three more beautiful children.
“Nanette’s passion and love for music seeped into all of her children - Heather recalls the family travelling round Ireland in a postal van and performing at a Buskers Festival, where they formed a band and won a grand total of £500.
“Nanette eventually left Des, setting up a new life and moving in a completely new direction.
“It was at Glastonbury Festival where she came upon a Procession of The African Cultural Contractors, joining in with the singing and soon moving to Birmingham to join them.
“She and Ayo (I O) bravely moved to Devon back in the days when multi-culturalism was still quite rare in Crediton, and they quickly became the talk of the town. They had two children together and led new ways in Dance and Music. Inspiring times indeed for the children and the wider community.
“Yahwan remembers watching their collection of VHS video tapes tirelessly and repeatedly whilst banging pots and pans on the living room floor. He inherited a knack for drumming from day one, which Nanette was particularly proud of. He is thankful that? Nanette gave the children such freedom, for it paved the way for his passion towards film making. It was a bittersweet pill for Nanette to swallow,? because? the more he turned to the world of film and TV the less he focused on his music. But Nanette would always come around to his shifting focus, as she did for all her children.
“When Yemanja was born their parents threw a naming ceremony in the West African tradition of Griot praise. The sound of drumming in the mist of a forested valley, joyous laughter, the smells and scents. Nanette loved to embrace the magical aspects of West African culture.
“She could imitate Ayo’s language in song so convincingly and her smile would be beaming. After some heartache, they split up. However, Yemanja brought laughter love and joy and kept the family going.
“By now, a single parent, raising her children in Sandford, she offered Open House. She always had room for more, despite having six children. All the teenagers loved her because of the way she was. So many have learnt so much from Nanette’s free and open spirit. She found solace in her North American Indian Medicine cards, frequently doing readings for her children and their friends – far from this being embarrassing, they actively urged her to do it.
“Nanette joined too with The Tribe of Doris, another huge family of Kindred Spirits and shared amazing times with her children and friends.
“Nanette has always been a searcher seeking to develop and expand. She discovered The Landmark Forum and had such a commitment to others reaching their full potential that she helped make it happen for all her children, and many other friends, which was truly transformational.
“As the children started to scatter, Nanette met Jewl Day, again through music, and her talent in songwriting continued. She had amazing talent for improvising and creating songs from scratch – one New Year’s Eve, she heard the band improvising and decided to take to the stage, improvising a whole set of songs from nothing, displaying her unique talent for winging it with her free and unrestrained nature.
“After being diagnosed with cancer, she would say ‘I’ve got this, but it doesn’t have me’, which truly encapsulated her approach to the hardships she faced throughout her life. In fact, she was even more productive after being diagnosed, meeting Steve and finding a way to combine her love to transformation and healing, with her love of music, by writing, recording and releasing her album ‘Breathe’.
“Nanette was a warrior, who rose to every challenge and was unconventional in her being and her parenting. Though she felt her approach was often considered controversial, her six amazing children are the proof of the pudding. All of them recognise how much her wisdom helped them through difficult times, and all of them will deeply miss her council.
GENEROSITY AND LOVE
“She created an open honest space for them, nothing was ever buried, communication being the key, with much resolution and forgiveness.
“This was her true way, and in many ways her greatest legacy. As with any family, sometimes there was a distance but she went out of the world with the love and care that she should have come in with. Her early years were tough, yet she reflected and created that love for herself. Even during her final hospital stay, Nanette’s generosity and love was shown by her wishes for the children to write individual cards to all of her Nurses – who she called her Angels.
“Angelina wanted to remember Mum over the last few years with the amazing laughter and banter that they shared. Angelina truly has her mum down as her BFF, and is so glad that she got to enjoy the real presence of Nanette.
“Tui, Nanette’s eldest, also lived near to her for many years here in Crediton, and while the closeness may have sometimes meant they didn’t always see eye to eye, it created an amazing relationship between them and Tui’s two children. Tui has a lasting and wonderful memory of going to the beach a couple of weeks before Nanette passed. Nanny Nanette sat with Jack so that Mummy and Daddy could go in the sea with Bella. Always steadfast, and always present for her beautiful grandchildren who she loved so unconditionally. Bella will be Nanny’s petal and keep the memory of her alive for all the other grandchildren.”
Karen then read the poem “Little Gidding” by T. S Eliot, on behalf of Jonjo, Nanette’s third child.
To conclude, Karen added: “Nanette gave such a level of real care throughout her life to everyone; this was her true essence, along with being such a Fighter and with such a sense of Humour. She had strong Wisdom as well as Innocence. She was Fearless and Courageous, and she had such Confidence. And she was capable of true, deep and unconditional love for anyone who came across her.”
Hymns and songs included “Amazing Grace” and “This little light of mine” and a poem, written by Nanette, “Walking through the threshold glittery rainbow gate” was also read.
James Gregory called on everyone to remember the wonderful ways in which Nanette had touched their lives.
He said it was 12 years ago that Nanette had been baptised at the church and had begun a fresh start with God. He said that in death she was returning to him.
“God breathed out and her life was created and now she is returning to him,” he said.
A private cremation followed the service.
The celebration of Nanette’s life continued at the church with food and drink, a memorial room and memorial book for people to sign, free copies of Nanette’s CD for those who had not received one and there were two rooms with lovely photos of Nanette.
The celebrations continued late into the evening with live music at the church but her music and her memory live on with all who knew her.