Thursday, September 25, 2014

Back in the UK, wassup?

I generally aim to be home in Frome for Carnival, but I wouldn't have missed this last week at Cortijo Romero in the Alpujarras even for the glittering procession of bicycling bees, as I enjoyed such a fiesta of lucent creativity with the self-styled WRITE CLUB. Our sessions each morning and again at twilight produced high-standard pieces imaginative, moving, surprising, and sometimes hysterically funny... 
And between times, there's that beautiful garden to laze in, superb meals, dawn yoga & night dancing, and walks into town to practice our Spanish on charming barmen who with our wine brought platters of equally delicious tapas, charging an incomprehensibly small amount for these delights.
Two fantastic groups back to back feels like a perfect place to press pause on writing courses. After two decades of leading sessions in fabulous venues from Thailand to Chile, including Turkey, Tuscany, France, Spain, Crete, Kythira, Zakynthos and Skyros, I've been privileged to work with some unforgettably wonderful people and hear fresh-minted words ranging from moving and profound to frankly hilarious, constantly amazed at the power of the pen in these ten-minute impromptu pieces.  And now it feels like time to make a change, though I have no idea what that will be. Uncertainty is the fertile ground of creativity and freedom.... step into the unknown and you step into the field of all possibilities.  I heard that Deepak Chopra quote for the first time on Skyros this year and found it synchronicitously affirming of the severance I had already decided.  So my last post about teaching ends with an image from 1994, my very first course in Gümüşlük ~ or rather just after it, when we all went for a refreshing Turkish mud bath.  The good muck of life, giving endless renewal. Thanks a million, all of you, I've learned so much.

Back in the world Forster so aptly epitomised as a place of 'telegrams and anger' I'll avoid comment on the race to self-destruction between war-mongers and planet-abusers, and comment on a more modest literary issue: literary censorship.
"As a writer you have a choice to make – are you going to accept censorship or not?" was Hilary Mantel's response to the fury greeting her latest publication The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.
It was hailed by the Guardian as 'unexpectedly funny' and by Maggie's former guru Timothy Bell with a call for a Police Investigation for 'bad taste.' As English PEN, which supports writers across the world penalised for free expression, points out: Lord Bell’s call for the police to investigate Mantel for writing a work of fiction is disproportionate and wholly inappropriate. It's also ironic, since Mantel's work is an imaginary fantasy about someone now dead, that the baron considers this a more appropriate target than distorting data about living people for personal financial gain, as he was found to be doing in 2011. Remember the Bell-Pottinger lobbying scandal three years ago? Just saying.
A bit more serious, I think, is the closure of Exhibit B, a performance designed to raise awareness of the ongoing history of racism. The show, which has already been shown in several European capitals and won 5 stars in Edinburgh, was due to run at the Barbican but a petition of protest from nearly 1500 people claims the content is racist. Only a tiny minority of those protesting will have seen this difficult piece, and I haven't so I don't know either, but I found the statements from the actors (all black) defending their work very convincing.  They met with the demonstrators to plead the integrity of the piece: "We find this piece to be a powerful tool in the fight against racism. Individually, we chose to do this piece because art impacts people on a deeper emotional level that can spark change." But shouting protesters won the day, which I wish was true for much bigger protests for peace and planetary protection, homes for homeless, or equity for the poor and dispossessed.
Anyway, less of all that, it's really good to be home among family and friends, with a new pub theatre production coming up at the Cornerhouse soon - October 10th & 11th are the diary dates to note. Further details after Sunday's rehearsals!

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