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Strokes force Edwyn to rip it up and start again

It also earned them a slot on Top of the Pops with fresh-faced and bequiffed singer Edwyn Collins struggling to retain his composure amidst the absurd studio step up whilst crooning the signature refrain: “Rip it up and start again.”

Some 22 years later those lyrics took on new meaning as he was found collapsed at home as Antique’s Roadshow, the couple’s distinctly un-rock and roll Sunday night telly treat, blared from the box.  A cerebral haemorrhage, followed just days later by a second, left Edwyn starting again as he was robbed of his speech and much mobility. Following his strokes his vocabulary was ripped up, the only remaining shreds being “yes”, “no”, the name of his partner and manager, Grace Maxwell, and bizarrely, the phrase “the possibilities are endless.”

He told Grace: “I was peaceful and tranquil at first. No thoughts at all. Edwyn Collins, that’s me, I knew that. But everything else, it’s gone.”

But start again he did.  Through his own stubborn determination, the support of friends such as Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame and the Sex Pistols’ Paul Cook, and Grace’s incredible devotion and loving head-pecking, he was soon back performing and recording.

By 2007 he was well enough to appear in the BBC’s Electric Proms, the same year his critically acclaimed Home Again album was released.  From there came two further albums – Losing Sleep and Understated – both containing material wholly written and recorded after the haemorrhages which so nearly took his life. Live performances demonstrated the power of song on the mind as his often faltering banter gave way to his confident baritone, his inner soul.

It’s an incredible story and one which is now being told through a feature length film named after that curious and uplifting phrasal fragment. Already screened to huge acclaim at various international festivals The Possibilities Are Endless gets its UK cinematic release on November 7th having already been made available via iTunes.

In his five star review for The Guardian, Henry Barnes praises the film for not just telling the Edwyn Collins story but seeking to convey to the viewer how it felt to suffer such traumatic aphasia:

“Instead they immerse us in the experience – as confusing and frightening as it is. Their take on accident and recovery is romantic and terrifying, lush but insular. They dig beauty out of tragedy without being too neat about it and have made a remarkable film.”

Sugar-coating is certainly not the way of Grace whose 2010 book, Falling & Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins unflinchingly detailed the rollercoaster ride of the Edinburgh born songwriter’s recovery – or recovery so far.

For this is an unfinished solo project. Progress has been slow and led not just by medical professionals – he spent six months in hospital – but the therapeutic power of the pencil. Once home again, Grace pushed him to return to a lost talent, ornithological art. As a young man Edwyn had been a graphic artist at Glasgow’s Parks Department – in these times of austerity it’s hard to imagine such a post! Now, as he struggled to reclaim his speech and with right side of his body stroke stricken, he found his talent for drawing remained. It was a landmark discovery and, as he continued with his beautiful, fragile sketches, one which aided his wider recovery.

Grace is also honest about the financial security provided by Edwyn’s international Northern Soul inflected smash hit, A Girl Like You. In Falling & Laughing she admits:

“Edwyn has been incredibly fortunate to have the song’s protection at his back through the most challenging years I hope we’ll ever have to face. How lucky it is to have resources to ensure that whatever he needs, he gets. And I have not had to give up my job to look after him. He is my job. We are acutely aware that most people who find themselves in similar circumstances don’t have our options. They have to take what’s on offer and that, I’m afraid, is pretty much a lottery (but even at its best, it’s often rubbish.”

True as that may be nothing can be taken away from either Grace or Edwyn in his recovery. This story is underpinned by the impressive strength of their relationship, the love which it could certainly be argued has fuelled a recovery so strong that he again toured this year, more confident to the point of gleefully waving his suitably dapper metal-tipped stick at an adoring sell-out audience in Manchester. He’s followed that with what for anyone would be a gruelling promotional circuit for The Possibilities Are Endless, a film which he also scored.

Whilst not starring Brad Pitt or dollar-munching CGI graphics, it’s set to be one of the most important and moving cinematic releases of the year, shedding light on a condition which strikes over 40 people every day in the UK.  It will hopefully encourage people to learn more, perhaps from Connect, a UK charity backed by Edwyn and Grace which supports and champions the rights of people with asphasia.

* For details of and to book tickets for UK screenings of The Possibilities Are Endless, some attended by Edwyn, click here. To download the film for £9.99 via iTunes click here.

* Falling & Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins is published by Ebury Press and can be bought for £8.99 from Random House.

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