Monday, 3 May 2010
A good many of AC's subscribers have done so, so apologies to you for repetition. Please accept this video of someone playing The Fall's Repetition on a record player by way of recompense. (I do have this single, but this is not my video, honest.)
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Here's the piece I would 'end on'. Although I've mentioned it, and linked to it, I've spared you my poems here, but this is one I wrote for my leaving do, and then forgot, in the emotion of the moment, to read. Besides we'd already had a new Shakespeare poem that night. (Tom Shakespeare, that is, my chair at ACE amongst many other things.) It was probably for the best, that night, but I shared it afterwards with the team in the North East office, and it seemed as as good a way to go quiet here as any.
The angles of the north are sharp as words
bitten in the wind, ballasted by bricks
so they can’t float over Pennines or Borders
to the uber-North as it plays its trump card,
devolution. My devotion is fast,
true as the compass of the A19,
A1 , or East Coast Main Line, the magnet’s pull
towards home or good work, twin poles that switch
and twitch like dancers in cold rehearsals.
Even restless melodies can settle
for equilibrium, and those have been mine,
home, work, twin arts of making worlds together.
But winds change, pick my dump weight up and heave.
Release is good, from on high landscapes shift,
graceful application turned to growth, sun
staccato off roofs and extractor fans,
curves and corners of new tunes and stages
rising like time-lapsed dough giddy with yeast.
There’s a toolbox down there, plenty to make
us tight with invention, rapt in creation.
There is no stopping us, no hopes gone south
now, no mothballing but of metaphors
of our doubt. We are done with all that,
have set out on fresh sweaty marathons,
mantras muttered against cynicism’s
insufficient priorities, competing
demands for fresh beats of northern hearts.
The sun sets in the west, beyond Barrow.
Yes, we are brothers and sisters from sea to sea:
our vowels as flat as the plains of class.
I have walked slowly to’t Foot Of Our Stairs,
a long march of a ten year trek but that’s
where I’m bound now, working out what I’ve done.
What we’ve done, is all I can see or say to end.
More is needed than these puzzled lines, more due
to others than this circular ‘thank you’.
But thank you will have to do.
Monday, 5 April 2010
Thursday, 4 March 2010
This made me think two things. Firstly, how the genuine the 'laugh' is when it comes, from the other MPs, and how different that is to today's yahboo behaviour in the house - although there are one or two genuine wits left, notably William Hague, perhaps surprisingly, in themain the barracking and pantomime behaviour would get MPs excluded from any decent comprehensive. Secondly, and more importantly, how relevant the story is today. As all parties try and sound both tough and magical about cuts, hearing Michael Foot's elegant scorn illuminate the real issue, I couldn't help wonder whether the second half of the trick is any better known thirty years on. If it is isn't, only those with the money to buy new watches will be laughing.
(You can hear the clip 55 minutes into the programme here for the next few days.)
Inevitably much reference has been made to that 1983 election, although his life had been a long and distinguished one even by then, and the tributes have tended to subtly state he was, well, mistaken but passionate and committed. Even at the time of the 1983 election, I thought he was treated unfairly. (I got to vote for the first time in that election, on the day of an English Literature A level exam. We played The Beat's Stand Down Margaret through the 6th Form Common Room in a vain - in all sense of the word probably - attempt to influence voters using the school. It was 14 long years before I got to vote for a candidate that actually got in.)
Thinking about that, and what (and who) Michael Foot represented, I was reminded of something Vaclav Havel said: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Checking that quote , I came across this: “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.” That seems to me what Michael Foot was about, win or lose. In that he differed from the breakaway SDP who really cost the country that election, and their spiritual progeny in all parties. Would that there were more like him still around.
(I know I'm leaving very shortly, but I suppose I should state: personal views, not Arts Council views.)
Friday, 26 February 2010
Perhaps he got the idea from Arts Council England North East's communications team, as they've just conducted a similar experiment, which is documented in the video above. The Usher family from South Shields were asked to remove all art from their lives for a week and see how it felt. (No doodling, no humming, no all singing all dancing as the mum puts it.) They were then rewarded with a week of rather special artistic activities, including workshops with Kate Fox and Beccy Owen round the kitchen table.
Perhaps we should promote a national-no-art-week, as a counter-intuitive way of helping people appreciate the arts more?
The Journal newspaper have been running a campaign 'Case for the North East', which alongside many strong cases has included some rather odd and (to my mind) parochial statements suggesting there is no such thing as the North - it's 'a convenient line drawn on a civil servant's map' and 'the truth is we relate as much to London, Scotland and Europe as we do to the rest of the north'. Economically there may be some truth in that, but culturally I couldn't disagree more. (And whoever built Hadrian's Wall, or thought up the word Northumbria - North of the Humber? - might be with me.)
Of course the North East is as different from the North West as a Geordie accent is from Scouse, and both are different from Yorkshire. But then Tyneside is different from Teesside. They do though, have things in common - industrial and class heritage most particularly. The stereotypes of 'Northernness' cut across the country - and so do the positives. I think that's an interesting thing to explore - and the understanding of our variety and diversity that results a real inspiration.
Two things are happening at the moment that explore ideas of northerness is a more exciting sense than the Journal's campaign. (And don't get me wrong, I want resources and power to reside in the region - just not for almost charitable reasons.) Firstly Northern Stage (now run by that lovely southern lady Erica Whyman, or Why-Aye-man as she's known in Newcastle) is celebrating its 40th birthday with a major project exploring Northernness in a global context. And then The Civic in Barnsley are hosting Northern Futures, a competition for northern talent. I guess one can see the dangers here though, as even I thought they could have included some North Eastern names in their examples. (Or indeed more people who still lived in the North.)
(Of course, I would say all that, wouldn't I, having spent the first 22 years of my life in the NW, 5 in Yorkshire and the last 17 in the North East. I did spend a year in London Village, but that just reinforced my northerness.)