Get things going in Stratford upon Avon

Since I arrived in Stratford upon Avon in 1971 I have tried on a number of occasions to er…’get things going’. In the early days it was music and as time as passed and staying with entertainment, I found myself promoting theatre. I started with a couple of other blokes promoting our own theatre company (The Bird of Prey Theatre Company) and ended up with my own little and rarely seen ‘The New Stuff Theatre Company’. To cut a long story short, I was under the mistaken impression that the natural home for drama and other forms of entertainment would be Stratford upon Avon. I was wrong.

The point I’m trying to make here is how difficult it is and how it has always been in this, what you might think, a theatrical town to actually put anything on. OK, so its not easy to put things together in any town, but here, in of all places, Stratford upon Avon you might expect at the very least to encounter enthusiasm. WRONG…

Before I go any further let me put your suspicions to bed and give you the chance to stop reading now.

Before you have to suffer any further I admit that yes, this is ‘a letter’ of complaint. A letter from the permanently baffled. What follows has been said many, many, many times before. I’m sorry but I’m saying it again…and like many good mysteries it has yet to be solved.

The question is this…

‘Why is it so difficult to get any form of entertainment that is not Shakespeare, on in Stratford upon Avon?’

We don’t have to look very far to find thriving artistic communities in other towns. Leamington Spa and Warwick seem to do ok in terms of venues for music and theatre, so what is about Stratford upon Avon that makes it a cultural desert?

For instance, where are the spaces, the stages that might welcome new drama? Does everything have to be an estate agent, a restaurant or a coffee shop. Of course there’s a place for them in any thriving town but Stratford upon Avon is, or at least should be, special. If it’s the home of Shakespeare, then it follows it is also the home of theatre. And that in the name of the man himself, means all theatre.

A cloud hangs over Stratford upon Avon. A cloud, a fog, a wet blanket so thick and heavy that exploration, experimentation has been totally stifled.

I’m afraid blame Shakespeare.

Shakespeare and all those who have the power to wield his name willy-nilly and lean heavily on him to keep the gravy train rolling. Shakespeare’s gang. All of whom have a ‘I’m alright Jack’ chokehold around the artistic neck of my hometown.

What I’d like to see…

(Holds breath and says very quickly)…I’d like to see a *moratorium on Shakespeare and his work at the RSC. A pause, maybe in the form of a festival of drama. In Shakespeare’s name an exploration of drama in its many forms performed not only at the theatre but at spaces around town. From traditional to experimental. In short…A CELEBRATION.

Is this too much to ask?

(Don’t answer that).

 

NOTE:

As I write there has been, thanks to a couple of new faces in the Public House Regime in Stratford upon Avon a revival in the music scene. Bands are being seen and heard.

Long may it last.

IFH

Racism. Prepare to be knackered.

The recent goings on at Yorkshire cricket club say one major thing to me and that is, Racism cannot and never will be defeated. This is a given, so…Racism. Prepare to be knackered.

I am a mixed-race man in my later years who has experienced racism and its devastating effects. From watching my mother return from a shopping trip with my white stepfather with spittle dripping down from her hair. To being told to ‘go back to the jungle’ on a full parade ground when I foolishly joined the army with some crazy idea that I wanted to serve my country. Unfortunately, ‘my country’ made clear it didn’t want me.

Throughout most of my adult life I have made it my business to fight racism as best I could wherever I found it. I’ve been arrested for protesting the presence of apartheid South Africa at the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations. When I was younger, I was very aware that the colour of my skin lost me jobs and er ‘worried’ people.

And after all that, after all those energy-sapping episodes I have to finally admit to being knackered and sadly, defeated.

I have come to the point of view that racism is a natural part of many peoples lives and there is no way that diversity courses or any other form of ‘education’ is going to change minds. Over the years I’ve taken part in ‘exciting programs’ developed to change the thinking that leads to racist behaviour.

I’ve been on work days that were designed (by whom I don’t know) to dramatically change entrenched thinking. Days that led me to work with/on the police to change their narrow and unimaginative, institutional way of thinking. I’ve girded my loins and held my shaking head high to walk in a room full of various ranking police officers, all there to be challenged on their view of blacks, gays and trans people…and I have to say, you could smell it in the air. The challenge.

The challenge that says, ‘I dare you to change my mind. I know full well what it is I need to allow my survival on the streets and that is knowledge of my enemy. Take away or even challenge my preconceived ideas, rob me of my valuable, stereotypical knowledge of who I am likely to come across while patrolling the streets and I become ineffective, useless…even afraid’.

There is no way that racism is going to suddenly go away. It is here forever. As many laws as you like will not drive it into the darkness where it belongs. It is embedded in men an women’s hearts.

However, and of course, it should never be ignored. It should always be fought where ever it is found. But the battle is never-ending.

Prepare to be knackered.

Hatred and Venom

Gangster 2

My dear old mum always used to give me a good telling off whenever I remarked, that I felt hatred  and venom towards someone. She’d say in no uncertain terms that to express that kind of sensation usually did more harm to the ‘hater’ than the ‘hated’. That hatred & venom were self-destructive.  And she was probably right.

The amount of energy that it takes to generate that burning sensation deep inside of oneself has to be self-destructive. And it lingers. With what we now know about our bodies and the connections between what we feel and our physical well-being would suggest that anger, hatred, call it what you will can have long-term effects on our health. Personally I would say, however long it takes, those kind of negative feelings quite literally burn you up.

I know that. Unfortunately, I think I’m doomed.

I’m doomed because I hate the Tories. I despise the Conservatives. I hate them for their blatant and continual attacks on the poor of this spiteful land. They have no pity and base their sense of  a persons ‘usefulness’ on wealth and ‘how much have you got’.

They are cruel. Easily proved by noting how little they do to keep people (children) out of poverty (see budget). And they only do that because thankfully  everyone (at the moment – see America), has the vote. Distraction has become an artform with the general population let first one way and the next with what can only be called ‘clickbait’. Grabbing generations attention with happenings dressed up to be more important than they really are. With much of the media (TV and print) in cahoots with the Tories there is an enormous amount of totally meaningless crap out there to grab peoples attention while the really important stuff is hidden or dealt with at an indecent pace before anyone, except those in the know, are aware of what’s hit them. As the the pandemic shows, friends and cronies are rewarded massively for towing the line and following orders. The public are so busy doffing their caps that they still haven’t realised that Gangsters don’t have to come from the East-end. They come now with cut-glass accents and an Eton education (actually they always did ).

The leader of the Conservatives (Boris Johnson) has been shown to lie constantly and still he and his cronies are in power. The checks and balances that we assumed we had to stop crooks taking over our institutions go ignored and it is not to dramatic to say that folks are now being trampled underfoot. The lifesaver that is the NHS is compromised and infiltrated. It’s  running on empty while Johnson, Mogg fill their boots and destroy lives. Our ‘Rome’ is burning while the Conservative party grow fatter, wealthier and greedier whilst continually taking risks with our lives, from a safe distance.

Once, I would have said that Labour were the answer. That socialism was the key. But Keir Starmer’s party is near dead. The fire and the fury gone. Almost (but not quite?) a Labour party in Conservative clothing.

For once in my life I have no answer. I feel defeated. I feel beaten.

I feel I live on an island of sheep.

Rant over.