Present: Tense – tomorrow

Last minute gig addition.

I’m doing Nabokov’s Present: Tense tomorrow night. I’ve done this gig before. You have a week to write (in my case, though other artists direct, draw, dance) about the biggest news story of the previous week. Our topic this time round is the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington who set herself and her daughter on fire about 11 years of abuse at the hands of local gangs.

This time I’m collaborating with choreographer Isobel Cohen of Helix Dance. We’re kind of working in isolation at the moment as we both have so much to do. I’m writing a ballad and she’s choreographing a few related ideas and then we’re going to put them together tomorrow.

It’s all typically last minute as the brief demands, but I’m pleased with my work thus far. We decided to separate ourselves from the facts of the case to a certain extent. I’m not writing a ballad about Fiona, rather one about characters a bit like her and her family. What struck us was that such a violent suicide-murder was a scream for attention. Ignored by the authorities for so long this was Fiona’s ‘fuck-you’ to the world. I’m not defending her. In fact I’m not really coming down on any side in the poem. It’s hard to, the whole thing is really fucked up. What I’m trying to get across is the idea of folk lore, that this story will be remembered in that area for years to come. I’m also writing from the point of view of the son she left behind. The whispers as he walks past for rest of his life.

The media response has been fairly typical in my view: “ASBOs came too late,” etc etc. The Telegraph article I read last week had a patronising tone to it. It reminded me a bit of this Ted Maul clip from Brass Eye. I’ve skirted a lot of description in the piece by using throw-away phrases like: “Ken-Loachian” or “a bit Shannon Mathews.” These are deliberately callous. I wanted to get across this idea that stuff like this is all just material to the chattering classes. Indeed to us as artists on this project. I’m not sure I can say anything new about this, so I just wanted to flag up the desperateness of it all….

The poem is in the next post, edited.

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