Friday, 30 October 2015


We do not have the power of the press or law, police or courts.

Their power is a system of glass ceilings.

But power comes in many forms

As a voter, our power is in our vote, so we vote

As an eater, our power is in our survival, or we go on hunger strike

As a worker, our power is in our labour, so we remove that and strike

As a name, our power is in our numbers, so we petition

As a physical body, our power is in our space, so we march and occupy

As a consumer, our power is in our footfall and wallet, so we boycott

As a promoter, our power is in our venue, so we No Platform

I do not always agree with No Platforming, in fact quite often I think it’s worth ignoring.

But No Platforming someone with power and privilege isn’t free speech censoring.

I believe it’s an instance to show of what little power we might have in whatever circumstances.

Never shut down a debate, never shut down a discussion.

But be aware of what power we have to fight oppression.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

20.15 Blog #13: Spectre didn't have a ghost of a chance

I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen all the James Bond films.

Like all my viewing habits, we had a nox upstairs in the corner of my parents bedroom with every Bond film taped off the telly.  In our house, we rarely had any bought tapes, everything (including Asterix, Star Wars and various cartoons) were taped of the telly)  This was viewing on demand

My Dad’s Bond was Connery and early Moore, so those are firm favourites in my mind’s eye.  A few years ago, we went through each Bond film in order.  I remember being pleasantly surprised that Timothy Dalton’s Bond films were engaging, and saddened that Moonraker was not the gem I recall from my youth.

My Bond was Brosnan.  Born in 1988, Brosnan’s best Bond was part of growing up, even if I didn’t see them all in the cinema, he was still my generation’s Bond.  As tough as Dalton, but with more humour.  Goldeneye has everything for me, especially that nostalgic connection to the Nintendo game.   Ah the hours and hours spent throwing Proxy mines at each other…

Anyway, due to two pretty naff Bond films, my teenage and young adult years lacked a Bond, so I kinda got attached to the older Bond as best than any current fad.  I was a little slow to catch up with Daniel Craig, missing both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

I enjoyed Skyfall, despite the sexist development with Moneypenny for turning her from a field agent to someone stuck behind a desk.  But I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Bond is an interesting English figure.  We’re good at making rebels of the establishment, and yet against the establishment.  Robin Hood, the disgraced ex-lord of Locksley.  Falstaff, a Lord and yet a vagabond.  Dennis The Menace, the naughty kid who, in his heyday, had mass mainstream appeal.  Lennon and Lydon.

Bond is part of the British establishment.  He’s not the loner, like the American Western figure, and yet he is the character who might break the rules, go behind his superior’s backs, defy laws (driving a tank through Moscow etc).  There’s a whole bundle of Bond traits, it’s not one thing.  One film might play down the Britishness, another film will explore the violence, another the gadgets, another the villains, but it’s all a melting pot of Bond.


I found Spectre insufferable.  It seemed to take ages for Bond to actually get anywhere, and then major plot points were glossed over quickly as the need to wrap everything up rushed everything in the final act (they were brothers?  Spectre organised for M to be killed?  What are the other agents doing while the 00 programme is being shut down?).  Spectre were set up as this indestructible huge organisation, but Bond very easily blew up their base without much effort.  Then Blofeld went from being their sinister shadowy figure to a guy who flies in a helicopter above London with a couple of henchmen rather than his grand army.  What was his devious plan?  Collect everyone’s credit card details?  Watch us on the toilet?  I was not impressed.  I was underwhelmed.  I felt like a rehash of Skyfall.

Monday, 26 October 2015

20.15 Blog #12: Public Address Tour

Public Address Tour 2015

When I started trying to think seriously about making a career out of Saying Words As A Poet, the place I kept being sent to was this organisation called Apples & Snakes.  I went up to a workshop in Newcastle led by Kirsten Luckins, and joined their various Facebook groups, followed them on Twitter and perused their website.

Nay, I have pillaged their website.  Like the hungry Viking that my ancestry dictates, I went through their website devouring their articles and sample workshops.  I have used their workshop plans many times, obviously changing and adapting to suit my own devious ends.

For those of you who don’t know, Apples & Snakes support and promote poetry, spoken word and theatre-poetry fusions.  They work on a national and regional level, putting on events, gigs, workshops and advocating for the genre.  Alas, they have no Yorkshire-specific region, we tend to fall under the North East category.

So I was delighted to ‘represent’ Yorkshire as part of their 3rd Public Address Tour.  This tour takes artists from across the regions and sends them up and down the country.  The theme was Soapbox.  Standing on a platform and declaring something important in your heart.

Where was I to start?  I write about politics, but often as an uplifting Never Surrender style, rather than specific topics.  So I decided to write about the plight of the bees.  Cos if the bees go, humanity will be next.  I decided to set the piece in a post-apocalyptical future, partly because my partner was playing loads of Fallout and I’d just finished The Road.

With support from director Hannah Silva, we all took our pieces and crafted them over a lovely long amount of time.  The end result was a fantastic showcase, Shagufta Iqbal’s uncompromising poetry on Muslim identity, feminism and true beauty, Justin Coe’s honest reflective look on growing up and homosexuality in schools, Keisha Thompson’s satirical and darkly comic monologue about Black identity, Ingrid McLaran’s fantastical romp through a mindscape, Helen Seymour’s disarmingly funny exploration of our obsession with death and AJ McKenna’s hilarious (and divisively touching) performance piece about love, loss, rice and water pistols.

I was part of the Newcastle and London leg of the tour, but it was a privilege to meet and perform and work alongside really exciting poets.

Going waaay back to when I was a student, Sticks & Stones in Leeds was a cracking night because it brought talented poets from across the country.  It’s a sharing of ideas, styles and talents that is essential, putting a theatre director like Hannah with poets is essential.  Putting poets who are parents alongside poets who are just starting university is a sharing of different perspectives, and I’m sure audiences appreciated this kaleidoscope of characters we presented on tour.  That’s how we learn, and audiences learn, and I want to keep that culture alive in York.


It’s not over yet!  Catch the gang tonight in Southampton and Friday in Brum

Monday 26 October, 7.30pm | Part of SO: To Speak | Nuffield Theatre, Southampton SO17 1TR

Friday 13 November, 7.30pm | Hexagon Theatre, Mac Birmingham, Birmingham B12 9QH

Saturday, 17 October 2015

20.15 Blog #11 Be Chronos: Workshop planning & delivery

20.15 Blog #11 Be Chronos:  Workshop planning & delivery

There’s nothing like the revelation that a music single you remember having a profound effect on your musical tastes came out 10 years ago to make you reflective.

(for the record, the single was I Bet You Look Good On The dance Floor by t’Arctic Thunkies and I hated them at the time)

I have been leading workshops in youth theatre, schools and for adults for about 2 years now.  It came from the decision to really try and push myself as a freelance artist.  If I’m honest, most of my income comes from workshops.  I gig all the time, but I find gigs are for travel expenses or for charities or local low-funded events.  At least, that’s my perspective.  I’m far from an expert.  I have loads to learn.  I also have 3 workshops I need to be planning instead of this blog.  It’s putting my thoughts down neatly to I can control them.  But that’s a freelance time management skill to wrestle.  You need to control time. 

Be Chronos.

I’m doing a term as an artist in residence at a Primary School looking at Greek Myths.  They’re a bloody bunch.

(the Greek Titians/Monsters/Heroes/Gods.  Not the kids)

I spent a good time stressing about how you lead workshops.  How.  Do.  You.  Lead.  Workshops?  I worried about discipline, construct, content, standard, inclusiveness and enjoyability.  I shouldn’t have worried, but just considered.

I am really grateful for York Theatre Royal for giving me my first opportunities with young people leading sessions, as well as friends for looking over my workshop plans and being someone to check against/with.

The fact is, not every workshop needs to change someone’s life.  And if it’s for teenagers, they might look like they hate your guts and want to tear you apart.  They probably do.  But you can run faster than them, and hopefully own a car.  You can’t judge your skills on every single encounter with a group, and you can’t chalk up hits and misses.  It ain’t boxing (though it might feel more painful).

I always write aims/objectives at the top of my plan.  Keep a track of it, even if it’s ‘Make sure XXX is engaged’, ‘get to learn names’ or ‘finish scene’. 

My style is often relaxed.  I try and crack jokes, I’m not always overly disciplined, and on reflection could be a tad more.  But I do like to move at pace.  I give people 15 mins, I usually mean 13.  I like to keep people moving and thinking.  I use a stopwatch.  Even when everyone is engaged and scribbling away or merrily devising, I like to keep an eye on the time.

Try to predict times.  Don’t worry about times.  Keep a track of times.  Always leave plenty at the end.  Time is important.  You can’t control it.  You are in charge of time.  It’s your decision.  Tame it.  Bow to it.  Just make sure you wear a watch.  Be Chronos.

But I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt (read:  I am learning) is about passion:

I have found over the past year or so there have been times my energy levels have waned, or I haven’t planned the workshop as well as I might have, or taken particular care over a certain aspect.  As much as the other factors need addressing, always bear this in mind and you won’t go far wrong, I reckon.
But what you can do is go into each workshop with enthusiasm, because at the very least if you show you care, then that’s an important lesson in artistic-based work.  That someone actually has investment in their delivery, which does have an impact in the people you’re working with.

But I’m talking about Chronos, the embodiment of time in Greek Mythology.  Not the titian of the same Mythology, Cronus.  Cos he ate children.  Top tip:  if you do that, you might not be invited back.