Gloucester Guildhall 2pm daily until 27 August – Ticket £7 This week is your last chance to catch the final performances in the debut run of The Secret Life of Dads by Jarek Adams at Gloucester Gui…
Tags: children's entertainment, Gloucester, new writing, theatre
Tags: arts, Brexit, business, EU, Europe, government, referendum, vote
I’m an entertainer not an economist or political expert. I’ve stayed out of the UK Referendum rows on social networks. But I have been looking at history … hearing feeble reasoning everywhere … and I see sensible people, people I hold dear, spewing out hatred…
I believe 23 June 2016 could the most important vote I ever cast. With all the unwisdom of my 55 and three quarters years, and knowing it’ll cost me friendships, I still want to say:
A friend posted on Facebook. “If you wouldn’t vote to join the EU today, why vote to stay?” Oh, gor blimey – look at the tottering, overloaded juggernaut of the EU. Asphyxiating in its own bureaucracy. Paralysed by its own layers of crazy regulation.
But voting to leave isn’t the same as not joining in the first place. Things have changed since 1975.
- 100 years ago, millions of lives were thrown away in meaningless European conflict. And just one lifetime ago, Europe crawled out of its own wreckage and vowed NEVER AGAIN.
For some weird reason, among all the desperate stories of World War 2, I always think of sailors dying in the North Atlantic convoys: burning alive; lungs filling with oil; crushed under tons of metal and sea… weeping, screaming, screaming down into the dark…
If you have anything like that in your heart, you will not risk European peace and prosperity.
Because the UK leaving the European Union will subtly and fatally weaken it. Not in your lifetime, oh yes you’ll be all right, Jack; but your grandchildren could face what Syria is enduring now. Will you risk that?
- From the faint traces of fact that have ‘informed’ this debate, and watching the decisions of public figures whose humanity and (or!) common sense I respect, I see that nobody can predict the full consequences of a Brexit.
I don’t drive around corners in the dark if I’m not sure the road is there.
Gut feeling based on months of observing the arguments: there’s enough doubt about leaving to make me choose to stay with the devils I know. Oh, and to get serious about chivvying my Euro MP – no idea, since you ask! But I will, oh I will! – out of their comfy chair and into reforming action.
- I no longer trust a UK government of any party to act in the best interests of the people.
Look at the NHS, schools, emergency services, public transport, defence – everything that makes life safe and liveable: Thatcher’s, Major’s and Blair’s governments began the dismantling and Cameron’s crew have sped up the process. All hidden under “we’re giving you more choice”. Ssssptttt!!!
It’s the EU that protects pensions and working conditions. If you think your job is tough now, just wait until those European protections are stripped away.
- It ain’t broke so don’t… Oh. Ahem. The European Union does appear to be at or near breaking point. It’s been described as “failing”. So this is no time to run away bleating about sovereignty! It’s time to get in there and be more bolshie and more influential. Or can’t British politicos and civil servants cut it any more?
- If Britain leaves the EU, be prepared for a generation of racist, xenophobic madness to roar through our streets.
This insanity has guns and knives, and online social networks, and the infected ones are already crawling out of the dungheap. If Britain officially rejects ‘them furriners’ then gods help you if you have a dark tan, a funny accent, a foreign-looking name. And don’t dare speak up for those who do.
- I have lived in France and visited Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and a couple of Greek islands. Time was, they all just laughed at the Little England mentality. After a Brexit, the leading countries of Europe will, out of sheer spite – and to prove their point – bring down the shutters on UK/continental trade.
Imports will become extortionate. Exports won’t happen. There will be no ‘new deals’ with the EU for 20 years.
Can we replace our European business by doing more with China, India, the USA? Possibly. At a price. Because they’ll have us at their mercy. Will we deal (more) with those regimes and others – Russia? Saudi Arabia? – that are vicious tyrants to their people? Oh, I could get very detailed and very poetical about your food and your services coming from places where people are slaves, where women are less than slaves… or people… But hey, it’s all right Jack, you “want your country back”.
- In self interest I must note that there will shortly be No More Money for the arts in Britain. Whatever June 23rd’s decision, austerity Britain is set to drag on. And on. They can’t afford not to. The only funding for creativity will come mainly from European sources.
Yeah, yeah, you hate opera and highbrow crap. You’re a pie-’n-a-pint bloke, or bloke-ess, yeah, right? Working class means no posh rubbish, right? BOLLOCKS TO THAT! The arts are for everyone – from Game of Thrones to sharks in aspic – and the more you learn about humans through different kinds of art, the better you’ll handle the stupidity and cruelty you face in everyday life.
By the way, I work office hours plus evenings and weekends so I count myself working class. Just paid less. (And I can’t cope with operatic singing.)
Humans need the arts. Britain without the gentler moments, the wry reflections, the sharp questioning provided by ‘the arts’ will be drab, inarticulate and vicious. Going backwards. D’you want that, for the people you know who shine with creativity? For your next generation?
People who want to Brexit want to run away from how hard it is to be European.
That’s not British.
Tags: communication, performance poetry, personal style, poets, public speaking, respect, speakers, storyteller, storytelling
Up comes another image of a ‘storyteller’ so wild eyed and scruffy they’d scare a tramp. Oh, give me strength…
No wonder storytelling is a minority artform shunned by venues, media and the general public. Anyone who gets up in front of an audience is judged in 5 seconds on appearance. If you’re promoting your work in the media or online, the quality of your work does not come into those first 5 seconds.
People are turned off – or drawn in – by what they see. And if you look like someone who forgot to take their meds then you’re NOT winning hearts and minds.
And no, it’s not a beauty pageant. But it is about being respectful to your audience : turn yourself out looking clean, tidy within your personal style, and competent. I daren’t even use the word ‘professional’ as I know it’s a taboo word to a lot of storytellers…
One job to do
All speakers, storytellers, poets and their ilk have one job to do: to engage their listeners so that the power, beauty, humour and humanity of the words can be transmitted. Unless you’re on radio YOU KILL YOUR WORK IF YOU LOOK APPALLING.
In the UK most storytellers are retired and/or hobbyists. This is because full time storytelling mostly doesn’t pay a living wage. But ladies and gentlemen you must make an effort! However pinched your pennies are, whatever bits of you are dropping off… There are so few of us that EVERYONE is an ambassador for our art.
Respect your audience
Just because you revel in the label of ‘amateur’ and are part of UK storytelling’s 30 year quest for obscurity – you have no excuse for looking shabby as a storyteller in front of punters. Even if you’re another one of those who devalue creativity by giving your work away free, your audience has made the effort to come to the event.
Respecting your audience includes being on time, not overrunning your allotted time on stage or on air – and knowing how to introduce your work. Please get over the giggling. Please stop saying you’ll get through your bit as quickly as possible because it’s probably not very good… I really do hear performers say this! Please take a professional attitude about delivering your work as asked, to the best of your ability. (You’ll enjoy the experience more, too.)
Now, some of you know that I take diva levels of care to present myself as well groomed. I can’t be beautiful but I can be interesting. I can avoid using those snapshots with the really contorted or silly facial expressions…
Remember that every image might be THE ONE picture that ‘represents’ storytelling to a potential new audience member.
So get a d*mn haircut! Wash and iron the shirt, I don’t care if it is from the charity shop, ditch that shapeless sack of wool you call a pullover – and clean your boots! WHY SHOULD PEOPLE LISTEN TO YOU IF YOU REFUSE TO RESPECT THEM?
And being poorly turned out is also disrespectful to yourself. Which will affect your work. The wild eyed artist type in ‘disordered dress’, stinking of sweat, ciggies and booze does not make friends – or progress. This isn’t the 19th century romantic movement or even the 1970s rock scene. Bad behaviour isn’t cool. Competition for opportunity is fierce. If you’re hard to work with, unpleasant to have around – they won’t have you.
As for dull voices and ‘storyteller language’ … don’t get me started!
Tags: British values, Britishness, commnunity, communication, extremism, nation, Prevent duty, Prevent strategy, schools, storyteller, storytelling, terrorism
A newsletter alert from a nursery school was shared on Facebook: “Prevent duty: From the 1st July 2015, all schools and childcare providers must have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism…”
Comments were scathing.
“They’re literally assessing the children to check they’re demonstrating British values… *shudders*”
“I hope they’re also teaching [toddlers] how to root out and report illegal immigrants at nursery. Hmmm. Which side of the Iron Curtain were we on?”
We need to get past the clichés. Prevent strategy contains several worrying bits – but I see an opportunity to connect all British young people with a magnificent heritage of story (eg traditional folktales) and some rather important bits of history. Plus of course we can make clear what we’ve learned from national mistakes of colonialism and exploitation.
I sighed with boredom at school over the list of Factory Acts created in Victorian times. Only recently have I understood how important that legislature was: locking into law the protection of workers’ rights; saving childhood and guaranteeing children the right to education.
Now our rest days and right to withhold labour are being whittled away. There isn’t even a Workhouse for people to go and die in when cut off from essential benefits … But that’s another story.
A sense of belonging (or not) really does start among small children. People who feel part of a nation, and who feel they have a chance to contribute to and profit from that national community, are less likely to want to blow it up!
Hmm… What are ‘British values’?
Cleverly, even the Prime Minister who ringingly asserts their importance has shied away from defining British values in his public utterances. But of course there is Department of Education advice for grant maintained schools.
My version includes a nice cup of tea; generosity and quiet kindness – sometimes, admittedly, only when things are dire; respect for privacy; and an irrepressibly wicked sense of humour!
My British values encourage everyone to be self directing individuals within their group of family, cultural and social circles: to think clearly, form their own opinions, build resilience to life’s downs and ups, treat people fairly, protect the vulnerable, know the difference between authority and bullying, and to have the knowledge and courage to speak truth to power. Or at least to lampoon the powerful – and those who try to control us – without mercy, until they get over themselves…
So here’s a cliché for you: as a pro storyteller working with British cultural stories, I’ll be putting Prevent front and centre of my approach to schools. So there.
• What are YOUR British Values? What mindset do we need to live together well in the 21st century?
Tags: Benefits sanction, Cameron, Conservatives, Cotswolds, councillor, cruel, Europe, Farage, general election, Gloucestershire County Council, government, Greens, Labour, LibDem, Liberal Democrats, Member of Parliament, MP, naive, Parliament, Politics, powerless, racist, referendum, rural England, Spare Room Tax, UKIP, vote, Westminster, women's vote
I’m 54 and live in rural England. Whatever you see on the tourism websites, life round here is not glamorous. We endure low wages, expensive housing (second homes and tourist prices), poor public transport, poor work prospects, unaffordable leisure and arts (tourism again), lost banks, closed post offices and libraries. If it weren’t so stonkingly beautiful every time I look out of the window, there’d be no point living here.
- Nobody in power actually understands Britain’s finances, and they have no idea what we need or what we can afford. This is terrifying!
- In 2015 vote Tory = vote cruelty
- Vote Labour = vote incompetence
- Vote LibDem = vote not sure what will happen
- Vote Green = vote naive
- Vote UKIP = vote rabid racist and cut us off from Europe. Although this morning UKIP leader Mr Farage sounded like he’s been fitted neatly into Mr Cameron’s pocket [prime minister since 2010; Conservative]. Both of them are ‘insisting’ they want to ‘offer the country a referendum’ on leaving the European Union. Talk about distraction technique!
Westminster politicians are incapable of representing the electorate because they don’t live real lives – they have NO IDEA what it’s like to struggle for a fair chance in Britain today.
I see my friends’ lives, their creativity either sidelined or crushed by the daily grind to pay the bills. Members of Parliament have never lived like that. Nor do many County Councillors have to worry about paying the Spare Room Tax. None of these people has had to go without food or warmth because their benefits were sanctioned when the bus made them 10 minutes late for the Job Centre. Note that it’s County Councils – under the Westminster thumb – now relentlessly taking away services which directly affect daily life.
Tags: actors, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, commercialism, communication, creative industry, creativity, film, Hollywood, Life of Pi, Michael Hauge, money, narrative, quality, script agents, script writing, Sikh, Sikhism, Slum Dog Millionaire, spoken word, Storymastery, television, tv, writing
Revered script consultant Michael Hauge, whose blockbuster credits range from Pirates of the Caribbean to Hancock, happily gives away trade secrets at www.storymastery.com .
A young wannabe wrote to Mr Hauge of his frustration at getting no response from Hollywood script agents. The submitted scripts, intended for mainstream USA audiences, featured Sikh characters and included roles for the writer, who’s also ‘an aspiring actor’. He asked if he must ‘write to sell instead of writing good quality screenplays with unique characters’. You can read Michael’s beautifully honest reply on the Q+A page of www.storymastery.com
Michael’s response might be tough for a frustrated writer / actor /director to read. That’s why it’s so valuable.
I believe that ‘commercial and ‘good quality’ are not mutually exclusive – in fact the creative challenge to balance those elements is a big part of the fun!
To me, creative process means communicating my ideas – in ways that will win audiences. Grab them, hold them, provoke them into thinking (that’s hard!), give them laughter and other reasons to go on living.
Obviously I’m white British, irretrievably middle class and now sagging into middle age. Yet somehow I’ve always been aware of long established respect for Sikhism in the UK. When I was aged six or seven I loved the serial in my weekly comic about a Sikh army officer. I was also a child who suffered horrible nightmares. Time and again I summoned up the image of that warrior in his turban and uniform as I prepared to face the wild landscapes of night; the thought of that character made me feel protected.
So let’s think Life of Pi. Think Slum Dog Millionaire. Those films involve cultures outside the experience of a large part of western cinema audiences, yet the stories have vivid characters about whom you really care, they have visual magnificence and narratives that corkscrew between magical romance and raw survival. Cultural settings are secondary to the films’ emotional power.
5 year plan
But that young Sikh writer-actor must also remember that British creative industries have gatekeepers who tend to revel in their power and who only deign to give the time of day to their chosen clique. Outsiders are almost never allowed in. I suspect the USA, land of opportunity, is no different when it comes to film and television.
I suggest that, given he knows what he’s capable of when he gets his break, the young man needs a 5 year campaign:
1) To build a good reputation in the right places as a Sikh actor. Be available in many countries, do the widest possible range of work to learn how different aspects of the industry create success (and to see how NOT to do many things!) Respected actors do get opportunities as writers + directors.
2) To offer scripts to specialists in making films that feature Sikh culture. Initially he should not ask to act in his own films, until decision makers know and trust his writing and his acting. So where are the Sikh film makers, all around the world? Hollywood is not the only fruit.
3) To trust that all experience is useful as he works towards writing scripts that celebrate his Sikh culture and weave that material into a wider (western) context that will hook Hollywood decision makers’ attention. If he still wants that.
4) To network, study, work ordinary jobs to pay his bills and discover life; and keep writing. NOTHING IS WASTED even if it isn’t used this year … or next…
All about the money
I know all about failing to see beyond my own potential. “If only bookers/audiences would see how brilliant my performances and material are…”
And my work is constantly devalued, even when people enjoy it. “It’s just storytelling. It’s just for kids.” “We’re a charity.”
Just last week a conversation went bad because someone said “It’s not all about the money” to which I responded “But money is important. I have to pay the rent”. They couldn’t assume that I deliver my work fuelled by a lifetime of experience, 15 years of full time commitment and all the artistic integrity of which I’m capable. Instead they leapt to the easier assumption that I’m crassly commercial.
Right now I’m wriggling my material around to reach a new market. The world première of my first all-contemporary story cabaret Scheherazade’s Shed was hailed by the director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2015 as a “highlight of the festival”. I should have done this years ago!
But when I started out in 1999, the senior practitioners of my (very small) creative industry terrified me into believing that only one kind of work was acceptable. They were the gatekeepers so I did what they said they wanted. And 15 years on I’ve realised that didn’t work either! Sometimes the doors aren’t just locked against you, they’re bricked up. Time to stop banging my poor bloody head against a brick wall.
But if I’d been more confident, I’d have found the way round much faster. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you always got. Creative work MUST be influenced by commercial demands, i.e. what audiences like. Otherwise your work is just amateur self indulgence.
Tags: Adam Van Coevorden, Alex Chalk, arts, austerity, Cheltenham, Cheltenham Playhouse, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, creative arts, creativity, depression, general election, Gloucestershire, Jordans Solcitors, Martin Horwood, music, NHS, Ozymandias, Paul Gilbert, performance, poetry, Poetry Election, Politics, poverty, Richard Lupson-Darnell, Scheherazade's Shed, Shelley, spoken word, theatre, University of Gloucestershire
It was a delight, dare I say even moving, to hear the poetry choices of Cheltenham’s election candidates last night at Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s world first Poetry Election.
The town’s current MP is Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat. He won the Poetry Election with a pair of poems that included Shelley’s Ozymandias (‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone…’) which stopped being a cliché when Martin explained the poem’s original, harshly political context: the Peterloo massacre, repressive Corn Laws and vicious poverty.
Call it creativity…
The thing that makes your heart sing
• The Jordans Cheltenham Poetry Festival runs 20 April – 3 May 2015: from the world’s gloomiest poet (who will have you in stitches) to duck infested canal poetry, plus bands, hip hop and poetry for children.
• Scheherazade’s Shed – the world première of my new contemporary story show for adults is Monday 27 April 9pm at Cheltenham Playhouse, ticket £7 or concession price £4. Please pre book from the Playhouse 01242 522 852
Cheltenham’s parliamentary candidates, in alphabetical order, are: