Friday, 21 October 2016

20.16 Blog #23: Ken Loach & Hope

This afternoon, I watched the squatters occupying the old BHS building be evicted by bailiffs and police.  They piled plants and possessions onto bikes, said thanks to Subway opposite their temporary home (for free cookies I believe) and headed off.  Seems advertising their anti-Phillip Green party to be held at the old BHS building had encouraged the owners to push through an eviction sooner rather than later.  I got home and listened to the Autonomads, a Manchester ska/punk/dub/folk band who sing about security guards at the Job Centre and exposing the systematic cyanide of signing on.

In between these events, I went to see I, Daniel Blake.

I have loved Ken Loach since Film Studies at York College back in t’day.  At a time when I was discovering real-world politics, his films presented real-world humans.  3-dimensional, honest, believable and human, this form of British kitchen sink drama felt so touchable to accompany a need to grow up swiftly to exist within my new post-school world.

The last Loach film I saw in the cinema was Looking For Eric, and although I enjoyed The Angel’s Share, I can’t say either are my favourite.  But throughout Loach’s work is a real sense that working class people are good, decent and friendly.  He’s a myth-buster.  From Riff-Raff to My Name is Joe to the heavily polarised worlds of Bread & Roses and Land & Freedom, his working class characters are there to support one another.  Sweet Sixteen maybe is an exception, which is why is makes that film so powerful in its sheer hopelessness (but that’s just my reading).  At least with I, Daniel Blake he could rely on his neighbours, co-workers and the friendliness of strangers at the Library.  It’s not much, but it’s something.

I Daniel Blake is an old story now, one of benefit sanctions, ATOS and job seekers’ which still exists, but is sliding off the agenda of the right-wing tabloids who have now turned their sights to target refugees and immigrants in the wake of the EU referendum result.  If anything, they have shifted the zeitgeist us vs. them mentality now (peddled by the Tories) from “scroungers” and the disabled to “foreigners”.  The film ends with Daniel Blake declaring his is a citizen, no more, no less, and yet Mrs May might well ask Mr Blake, were she ever to walk amongst the people of Newcastle, “a citizen of where?”

There are a number of powerful moments peppering the film, and I cried so many times I lost count.  But one moment that has stuck with me is when the young child, Daisy, visits Dan who is refusing her help.  She insists.  She says, “If you helped us, why can’t I help you?”

With a handful of exceptions, Loach’s films show humans helping humans.  Yes, there are humans hurting humans too.  I often quote folk-punk band ONSIND, and one song states:  True hope resides in that moment where a person holds their hand out to a stranger on the ground.

There is despair, darkness, sadness and blood in Loach’s films.  There are tears, fists and poverty that grinds into your guts.  But there is also friendship, family and community.  There is solidarity between people and therein lies the hope at the centre of Loach’s films, like glinting treasure in the mud of an ocean floor.

And this, dear reader, is why I want to write hopeful poetry.  Angry, bitter and loud.  But hopeful.

I will not allow myself to be destroyed by these betrayals / I won’t ever let these bastards grind me down. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

20.16 Blog #22: The Power of The Podcast

The first Podcast I started listening to was Wittertainment (aka the 5 Live Film Show) off the back of seeing Mark Kermode (ol’ Marky K as I call him for some unanswerable injokey reason) on various programmes, hands a’flappin’, films a’reviewing.

Like Mark loves his horror films and Simon likes his various voice-led personalities, when I get into something I become something of a collector.  So in the past year I’ve been scouring new cool unique and odd podcasts for my Generic Fruit Based Device.

My top ones at the moment are Imaginary Advice by Ross Sutherland, which is a collection of strange stories, spoken word pieces, anecdotes and experiments in language.  Whilst spoken word is becoming snappier to fit the model of 3 minutes slam and viral videos, Ross is playing with stories well over 10 minutes.  For a (massive) punk rocker such as myself, it’s a super break from punchy pieces.  Six House Parties is incredible.

There’s No Such Thing As A Fish is probably one of the better known podcasts, run by the QI Elves, it’s like an episode of the panel show but without comedians vying to be the funniest in the spotlight like bears clawing for a chucked fish.  Rather, it’s like mates chatting and sharing strange, curious and unbelievable facts which give good fodder for future poems, stories, play and conversations.

Podcasts have become something of a zine-like culture.  Zines are for people to put a little bit of themselves into writing and images, bound together with staples, glue and oodles of love.  I guess a blog has similar qualities.

I’ve found the Podcast has the same DIYness.  The best podcasts are the incredible specific ones, the ones that have a fanbase dedicated but on the otherside of mainstream, underground, cornered, familiar to those who also explore the same caverns.

Batman The Animated Podcast, to me, sums up what a podcast should be.  Very specific, very nerdy, very honest to the podcastee, Justin Michael, talking about his childhood and love for the Animated 90s cartoon.  But I’ve never been a big fan of perzines (personal zines).  I love people telling their story, but some can be a wee bit self-indulgent.  But BTAP also talks about the history and use of animation, casting, writing, acting, sound, lighting and all those processes.  It’s a fascinating insight and everything I want from a Batman-themed medium.

So this year I’ve been making podcasts with the night I run, Say Owt Slam.  Some have been edited by Odd Horizon, some I put together myself.  I spent a long time playing with audacity, downloading the right fomas, playing with editing, uploading and re-uploading.  I can honestly say the Say Owt Podcast is very DIY, despite using the Evil Eye-of-Sauron-like iTunes platform.

#1: Sophia Walker & Adele Hampton 
#2: Dan Simpson 
#3: Jack Dean 
#4: Dave Jarman 
#5: Rose Condo 
#6: Scott Tyrrell 

Thanks to listening to Desert Island Discs, I think my interview style has progressed over the course of the podcasts.  I think we got better at nailing topics, as well as having fun.  I think the one we did with Rose Condo really got to the heart of writing and the process of creating spoken word.  I can’t wait to continue the Podcast deep into 2017.

You can find Say Owt Podcast on iTunes.  Please listen, subscribe, download, share and any and all feedback hugely welcome.

Now I want to make a new podcast about Batman, though.


(p.s. Desert Island Zines sounds a great idea….)