Isle of Man and New Writing

I’ve been on The Isle of Man for a week now. I’ve been going into the secondary schools here and doing my thing. I perform for about an hour in the morning, which usually means I am on stage by 9am, which can often be a challenge for both me and the audience! I then follow up the performance with two workshops, each lasting about 2 hours.

It’s gone pretty well. The performances have been well received and there’s been some great working coming out of the workshops. On Thursday I had to resist writing a few of the kids’ lines down and nicking them. I say “kids”, they’re not really kids, I mostly work with years 10, 11 an 6th form. In fact on Tuesday I was at the college and there even a few mature students in the workshops. I like working with older students, they are more confident to chat about the poems and we get some really conversations going.

On Friday I did my show, plus about 30 mins of new material in the first half, at the Villa Marina here in Douglas. Both bits went well. I’m feeling pretty hopeful that I’ll have a new hour’s worth of material by Edinburgh next year. I’m not going for longer than a few days, but it’ll be good to have a brand new show.

I’m also expecting to have a theatre show ready by then. I’m working on a piece called REVOLT! I’ll be scratching 15 mins of it on 19th November at Rich Mix in London, check the gigs page. It’s a dual narrative – one set in present day London around the summer riots, the other following the story of the Peasant’s Revolt from Fobbing in Essex to central London. Both deal with corruption, duplicity and uprising. Neither is a black and white story of goodies and baddies.

I’m writing the 2011 story in ottava rima, like I did Lucien Gore, and I’ve completed about 8 mins (160 lines) this week. The 1381 narrative is written in the Anglo Saxon style of alliterative lines. I’ve made a bit of a start in that and I’m excited to do more. I actually think that’ll be the easier of the two styles to do. Below is some ottava rima from the 2011 narrative, we’re at the beginning, a series of little vignettes of pre-riot Britain:

Let’s start our story in the present day,
well, cast your minds back, say a month or three,
before the heat of youth rampaged its way
down gap-toothed high streets – angry, cruel and free.
In Britain, where we’re keen they Have Their Say.
In Britain, with our Big Society.
Before the Sky News choppers churn and whirr
let’s listen to an average Friday’s burr.

So London first (why not?) that town’s a beast:
the mouths of Oxford Circus breathing out
a smoke of suits and buttered skin. Up east
horns honk at Shoreditch High Street, dickheads spout
abuse from vans; while underground they’re greased
with sweat and slapped on tubes where adverts tout
apologies from banks with shitty grins
or vitamins. A dearth of litter bins

mean right-wing rags accumulate on seats
parading cancer causes, ubermensch
and ghostly girls strangled on their own streets:
Found with one breast exposed, concern is drenched
in gory details, then reduced to Tweets.
What price a victim’s shame when you can quench
the idle curiosities of millions
preserve it all in columns of opinion?

And every front page headline sings the chorus
of Brookes and Coulson writhing on their swords
The media serpent playing Ouroboros:
it eats itself to fill the Stop Press boards.
The lengths they’ll go to just so they don’t bore us!
The depths they go for tit-bits for their hoards
of hateful kids, insatiable and callous
raised on Schaudenfreude, sex and malice.

But come now, it’s not late enough for that.
Meet Nick, a journalist, the measured type
his paper shuns the tabloid rat-a-tat
of scandal, lies, skullduggery and hype
or so they claim, though still they have their spats,
occasionally some doggerel and tripe,
but mostly they were good and Nick had dreamed
of writing for them since his early teens.

Which, I should say, were not that long ago
young Nick is young, I’m guessing twenty-four,
right now, he’s drinking in the Barley Mow
with mates. They’re idealistic, talking war,
Murdoch and Arab Spring but not for show
they’re galvanised by change and want some more.
They talk of ’82, of ’68
Tweet apathy to rights until its late.

Then half-sloshed in his room as grime core scrobbles
Nick bashes out a blog, all left-wing gristle
while bottles smash on Cardiff’s carless cobbles
and shirtless blokes shout fuming, mad epistles
(well, Coldplay songs) as post-work geezers gobble
kebabs while trying to protect their whistles.
A hundred farm boys piss down safety glass
a woman pulls her knickers out her arse.

As thirty-something birds in York alight
a train all wearing Shelagh’s Hen Do tees
a lipstick pink, they plough the muggy night
in search of sickly shots and DJ-ed cheese;
of hairy-chested lads who like a fight;
of somewhere dark to get down on their knees
and spill their liquored guts like summer rain
to clear them out so they can start again.

While up the road in Terrington Samantha
Trample runs her MP’s surgery
blue rinse brigade not fussed about the bankers
just gypsy sites and NIMBY-ism pleas.
A few congratulate or simply thank her
(she’s just been the made the junior secretary
for home affairs), life’s good, so say the polls
last one of these, and then she’s off on hols.

She glances briefly at her Twitter app
that nit-wit from The Guardian has spammed
her feed again with bolshy, pious crap
re her expenses. Christ, you’d think I’d scammed
the needy of their dinner. Trample taps
ineptly at the screen, Well I’ll be damned
if this will spoil my night. She presses block
@NickTheDigger’s angry missives stop.

Find out what happens on 19th November at Riot Act at Rich Mix. My words will be backed by visuals creates by Zara Hayes who I worked with on The Seven Ages of Love on Channel 4.

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