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Teenage songwriter from Lanarkshire gets soundtrack break after grandfather meets The Last Bus director

© SuppliedCaitlin Agnew at the Kelvingrove Bandstand
Caitlin Agnew at the Kelvingrove Bandstand

The songs were written in her bedroom but, thanks to her grandad’s chance encounter with a movie-maker, Caitlin Agnew’s tunes will soon be heard in cinemas across Britain.

The teenager still can’t quite believe two of her songs – I Wanna and Don’t Want to Go Home – first won over the director and then the film’s award-winning star, actor Timothy Spall.

Now film fans will hear her music when The Last Bus opens in cinemas across the country on Friday, telling the story of an elderly man who travels from John O’Groats to Land’s End carrying the ashes of his late wife in a suitcase, using only local buses.

The road movie was shot on location in Glasgow, Ayrshire, Helensburgh and Lanarkshire.

Timothy Spall stars in the film The Last Bus
Caitlin’s music features in The Last Bus, featuring award-winning actor Timothy Spall

Agnew, 19, said: “When I heard Timothy Spall liked my songs and they wanted to use them in the film I was in shock. It was like seeing my life flash before my eyes.”

Spall became a household name in the 1980s TV drama Auf Wiedersehen Pet, when he played electrician Barry Taylor opposite actors Tim Healy, Jimmy Nail and Kevin Whately. In 2015, he won a best actor award at Cannes for his role in the Mike Leigh biopic Mr Turner.

A chance encounter

Agnew, of Viewpark, Uddingston, Lanarkshire, has revealed her big break came after a chance meeting between her grandfather Jim Agnew and the film’s director Gillies MacKinnon. Her grandfather worked as a vehicle wrangler on the movie, organising all the transport, from vintage buses to luxury coaches.

She said: “It’s amazing how things work out. My grandad and the director got chatting and when he told me he’d sent on a couple of my songs I honestly thought he was winding me up.”

But MacKinnon was so impressed with the teenager’s work that he decided others had to hear it too. He said: “Often when you’re making a film somebody will come to you and say here’s a book I’ve written or whatever and give it to you.

“But in this case, Jim simply said I’ve got a granddaughter and she records songs and he gave me some background which was interesting. She was only 16 at the time and he asked, could I listen to them. I said OK, fine, send them on.”

The next thing Caitlin knew, Don’t Want to Go Home, about a road trip from London, and I Wanna, about reaching out for comfort during a difficult time, were being considered for the final cut of the movie that also stars Phyllis Logan.

Emotional songs

Gillies explained: “I listened and I just loved these songs. The emotion really embraced the soul of the film. I sent them down to our editor and she loved the songs and she put them into the film.

“And then I thought, well, maybe it’s just her and me who love these songs? But I began to learn that almost everybody who listened did.

“I brought Tim into the cutting room about half way through the cut – he’s an executive on the film – and he just loved the songs.

“Of course that influences me a lot because, as the person who walks in the shoes of the character, he’s really emotionally tuned in.

“So I began to think this is just one of these strange and wonderful things that happens, because Caitlin apparently sits in her bedroom and records with just her guitar. And yet somehow there’s something within the songs that just catches a mood for the film.”

‘A sense of hope’

The teenager started writing aged 15 while still at school. She is about to enrol on a Music Business course at college but is self-taught, sings, plays ukulele, guitar and keyboards.

She said: “I just want to sing and write songs. My idols are people like Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift as they are quite similar to my style.

“I use music as a way to express how I feel and just being able to get it out there and help other people that feel the same way, gives me a sense of hope.

“These songs just appear from nowhere, they are quite natural. They just kind of happen. Being able to have an audience gives me so much motivation.”

Her new album Through the Night is just about to be released on Spotify and Apple Music.

More information @MusicAgnew on Twitter. The Last Bus opens on Friday in cinemas nationwide