have your say

Tell us what you thought of Present : Tense / Three.

Post your comments here...

last night you saw...

a play by Matt Hartley
directed by Lucy Kerbel
starring Sarah Bedi, Alexander Gatehouse and Sian Reese-Williams

music by Gavin Osborn

a play by Chloe Moss
directed by Vicky Jones
starring Arthur Darvill and Amanda Wright

music by Jason Soudah

a play by Joel Horwood
directed by George Perrin
starring Tunde Makinde and Nitzan Sharron

music by Gavin Osborn

a play written and directed by John Donnelly
starring Loo Brealey, Bryan Dick and Danny Lee Wynter

Many thanks to all the artists involved, and to all of you for coming along.




for those of you who would like to, the above links (if i've got the link to work, which i doubt) or urls lead you to a page on amnesty international's website where you can sign a petition asking for mirza tahir hussain's execution to be commuted, and to the control arms campaign, which aims to do pretty much what it says on the tin.

mirza tahir hussain's death warrant/execution was one of the stories we almost picked. he is still alive at time of writing, but, according to amnesty, can expect to receive a death warrant with his time of execution at any time.

is that it?

so there we are then. i wrote a play, got drunk in the bar, and shagged the director. it was inevitable really. the funny thing is, it was amazing. john donnelly is amazing in bed. honestly, he's got pecs like an owl. a massive owl. a massive strong male owl.

better than that though, chloe moss wrote a blog entry. we all ended up at the groucho. with keith allen. and the bass player from the killers. and fearne cotton. and we had the biggest party and did the most coke anyone has ever done ever. and we talked about politics. and rubbed each other until we wanted to cry with the shame of how good it felt.

and then i went home. and went to bed. without cleaning my teeth or ANYTHING.

tomorrow i shall cure war. or famine. or make water cleaner. or find a new, sustainable environmentally friendly power source that will integrate all races and religions, and power my big car all at the same time. but right now i will drink cheap red wine. and smoke a cigarette. and eat a burger made from a horse i lost money on. and all of you, all of you, reading this now, will look up from your sad little lives, and see me in my penthouse on the thames, in my silk underpants, and my pecs, my pecs like an owl, dancing, dancing to the beat of the samba with my bose 5.1 soundsystem. and my director. and you will all want to be me.

and i. i with my comb. will look down on you. and i will laugh.


like that.

i will laugh at you. for i am king owl. and you are nothing.


Oh, so THIS is blogging?!...

Jesus, I wish someone had told me. I've been sat in a car park all week watching dodgy people having sex. I wondered where you lot were!

Sorry. Please forgive me. My phobia of blogs (I've never done one before, they scare me) and complete technophobia (I only sent my first email about two years ago) are no excuses at all I know.

Thank you for the footy analogy though John...not sure however if it's going to be true...

I've had a really good week, it was a bit of a toughy at the begininning I must admit but an enjoyable toughy...actors are ace and I'm well looking forward to tonight.

What a shame I've discovered the joys of the blog in the eleventh hour. To compensate I'm going to just keep writing to everyone detailing my daily routine for the rest of my life.

I'd love to write for longer but I'm off to do line runs.

Really genuinely sorry for my blogsence (Absence from the blog...duh? don't you know anything?) I really am. And feel guilty. I'll buy all my fellow bloggers a drink tonight.

Good luck chaps can't wait

Lots of love

Chloe x

Do you put things like 'lots of love' on blogs?

okay then, let's fucking do this.

right. it's sunday. time to leave the house, find a cafe and read the papers. oh, then i guess we should all turn up to the trafalgar studios and make some magic.

one final thing. personally, i think it's kind of our duty (for nights like tonight) to ask important questions about why these shootings happen, and to have an opinion on that. I don't think we can just sit down and say "yes but isn't it in bad taste?". Politicians and journalists and the media get to make judgement calls on what should be done/shouldn't be done all the time, and no-one says to them "you can't say that... what about the families?". obviously it is a difficult one to judge, because the public perception is that artists should keep their mouths shut about political issues and make no comment. after all, we just prance around and sing and dance, so we should leave any kind of politics to the people in power, right? hmmm. i don't want to upset anyone grieving, but we did the same thing after a bomb killed far more people in bali last year, and it was dealt with brilliantly. I think everyone has enough sense to respond empathetically and with dignity and taste.

On that note, best of luck everyone.


problems in the company

one of the frustrating aspects of being a writer is the journey a piece makes from text to living breathing theatre. and the director is the one charged with ensuring the smooth delivery of your creative child into the world – a kind of midwife if you like – with all the requisite sensitivities that entails. it's hard then, when you don't see eye to eye with your director, and this is one of the few occasions when i've found the director acting as an obstruction rather than an aid to my vision. i spent a frustrating few hours late last night thrashing it out with the director, hoping if we battled on, we would weather the storm and emerge, smiling into the daylight. but the breakthrough never comes. if this carries on our position will become untenable. fundamentally i think there's an issue of competence. our discussion has dissolved into an acrimonious competition, each of us trying to prove to the cast we're in charge. and his behaviour is embarrassing. he continues to make clumsy advances to both the male and female members of the company despite me repeatedly telling him his lunges are unsolicited. the play is falling apart before my eyes. anyone got any tips on how to deal with this cloying shitbag before i ram his arse through his appendix?


singing my first song 'ooh, those dangerous guns' will be (the finest guitarist of his generation) James Blunt. my second song will be performed by rappers N.W.A, who I have managed to reform just for this occasion. they are much more middle-class than they let on.


Short Fuse - first rehearsal

So we had our first rehearsal tonight. I was vicious with Joel, pushing for clarity. There's something exciting about working on a play with such an impending deadline but it requires a shorthand in rehearsal that doesn't allow for a lot of space around working the piece. Particularly in this play, where we have 6 or so scenes, 8 characters, and all the other accents and languages to contend with there are stages with rehearsal - we concentrated tonight on clarifying the story and the journey of the play. Nitzan and Tunde now have a joyful Saturday ahead of themselves getting familiar with the script before I work them all day Sunday getting the piece onto it's feet. It was great to finally hear the play out loud tonight - I strongly believe that Joel has written something intelligent, heartfelt and urgent. More news on Sunday. 44 hours and 10 minutes to go...


Jason Soudah - musician.

My initial reaction to the shooting of the boys is deep sympathy for the famiily and friends of those affected, and a desire to comfort them. I have experienced the sudden death of someone close to me who died way too young (15) and it is devastating. What I find interesting as an observer in these situations I have experienced are the social interactions that take place as a result.

My focus is on the family and friends of those affected by the shootings, and wishing to send them soome comfort. Thankfully the boys are both alive (just).

In their attempts to comfort, people often try to find 'the right words to say,' of which there very rarely are. Words just aren't that comforting. Well, not when dealing with such painful raw emotion - confusion, shock, hysteria, etc. What seems to be most comforting and helpful is physical proximity and contact with loved ones (as long as the person is usually comfortable with physical contact), such as hugging or just stroking their hand or forehead, just being there quiet and letting the person react freely without interruption, but with support. Taking over tasks and doing all one can to help, without being 'fussy', and adapting to the person's character. We are all so different and react in extremely different ways - many cry, hysterically shaking; some sit very still, staring into the distance; and some even laugh uncontrollably in shock.

As words often offend more than help in such situations (think four weddings and a funeral "I experienced something similar when my dog died...") - literally there is nothing one can say to make it better so why do we do it? - I am approaching this creative project from a non-verbal perspective. I could have written a song in reaction to this terrible tragedy, but I believe this would be more damaging than helpful if it were performed to the affected family, friends, witnesses, and public, all of whom I am visualising as the audience of this work. Therefore, I will be performing a piece of music on the piano which aims to bring an air of calm in order to comfort and support; in order to help the panicking and hysteria to be released and to return to a better state of mind.

Much of this piece will be improvised, in order to reflect the improvisational nature of comforting, constantly adapting to the person you're trying to comfort. This piece of music will also do that - it will constantly evolve through reacting to the atmosphere in the room - the energy of the audience.

As it has no words, I hope that the listener will take from it whatever they need in order to release their emotions and feel even just slightly better. I want the listener to know that the music is heartfelt, and so will feel open to it rather than defensive, as one might if it were a song with words, especially coming from someone who is not a direct victim of this particular tragedy.
well look it's getting close so it seems appropriate to say i hope everyone – directors, writers, filmmakers, poets, singer-songwriters, contemporary dancers, tabla players, skiffle groups, and mime artists alike – is doing well and whatever stage you're at, not freaking out completely.

i find everyone's comments and updates helpful, honest and insightful, particularly joel's short entries. they're like lovely haikus. joel, i salute your formal brilliance. i'm looking forward to your actors and your accents and your languages. on a similar note, has anyone else noticed the symbiotic balance between the zen like calm of george's postings, and joel's jet set (well, leeds), coffee and booze fuelled anger. have you two worked together before? you sound like a good match.

everyone has been by turns lucid and encouraging. be good to meet those of you who weren't about last sunday.

i'm not really sure where my play's at. it's odd trying to transform a news story into a piece of theatre, very hard to get beyond a headline. i'm still not sure if my piece is adding anything positive to a debate or simply detracting from the simple power of news item to inspire empathy and emotion, as it did in us. there is something very direct and truthful about the structure of a news story. "Two boys were shot in McDonald's in Brixton... two youths have been arrested... two youths have been released". i find this lack of detail a provocation to thought and imagination, and what i'm doing, i think, is following the logical train of those provocations, and writing something that gives my perspective on events. and that seems to be a more limiting experience than the original starting point.

in all honesty, i think this week has been inspiring and beneficial for me as a writer, but i couldn't say i think what i've written puts anything back into the communities this story has affected.

i would like to add this isn't a criticism of this project, or this process. i think nabokov have set up a simple and brilliant provocation. i'm just trying to examine what i'm doing, i think in the hope it makes it better.

judging by chloe's absence from the blog i reckon she's been spending less time talking and more time writing. a woman of sense, talent and insight. but i still live in hope she might respond to my childish baiting and post something.

i'm meeting my actors today. i've spoken to some directors this week who advised me to keep it simple, so i've only got two questions for them. have you read it? and how quickly can you learn lines?

come ead chloe moss, what you up to?

update on bbc


Actors terrify/exhillerate me


casting is awful. it's awful when it doesn't work. it's a quagmire of guilt and misery and hope. the enduring feeling is that there's always something you could be doing to make it ok. But there isn't, there really isn't. not at five to one in the morning. i know i should go to bed and sort it out in the morning. i also know, on some level, that it'll all be okay in the end. and yet i can't quite bring myself to go to bed yet. just in case it all suddenly sorts itself out because i am paying attention. oh dear.

casting complete

colin farrell, who you may have seen in ballykissangel, is playing the role of dexby, and samantha morton, who was in an early series of cracker is playing elufi. colin jackson, the retired hurdler is making his debut as holmes, which we're all very excited about, with brian cox (who's just left the cast of rock n roll in the west end) still to confirm. if brian's not free, bradley walsh has kindly agreed to step in. brian eno is burning the candle on a soundtrack with femi kuti (by email, they couldn't coordinate). mike bickers, who did the lighting for the original production of tommy is on board, with alan bennett sitting around filing sir paul smith's toe nails while he sews the costumes, just because i said to.


finally cast (sorry vicky)

I have two fantastic actors for Joel's play. Tunde Makinde who has previously worked at the Southwark Playhouse, Royal Court and Traverse and Nitzan Sharron who was most recently seen in Mike Leigh's 2000 Years at the National Theatre. We're working Friday evening and all day Sunday so it will be nose to the grindstone right through until Sunday evening.

Thoughts that have been gathering this week reading everyone's posts have been about pride. Most people (myself included) have written at some point about the disparity between their experience and the assumed experience of someone prepared to acquire and with the need to aquire and use a gun. But it seems that the motivation is often, and could have been in the case in Brixton, pride. And surely we all know what the sensation of having to defend or lose our pride feels like. Perhaps it's simply what you have to hand in the moments that you decide to defend it, that makes the difference.


ohgodohgod i'm not cast. breathe. remember to breathe. can't do anything if don't breathe.




moving on not moving on

i'm tired, partly from this, partly from other work, and as my recent posts will testify, this isn't conducive to moving the play on. i can't think clearly enough to write the play so i write this instead.

i have a cast, a good cast. i am happy.

i haven't directed in ten years. this makes me nervous and excited.

i find reading the thoughts of the other contributors by turns inspiring, chastening, and provocative.

i have a working title. exotica.

exotica seems to be gaining some kind of life beyond the impetus of the news item. had a really good chat with a friend simon, a writer. helped focus.

the play, i think, is about trying to reignite the embers of a dying and valued relationship, and in the process doing something ugly and brutal.

it is very important to make the play dramatically alive and completely about the relationship between the characters on stage and what they are trying to do to and for each other.

i think it is lazy and immoral to derive an emotional currency from the emotional impact of real events. i believe this is to take advantage of the goodwill and emotional generosity of an audience. this is not to say the power of a real event has no place on a stage. but working on the principal that if you have nothing to add it is better to keep your mouth shut, i think a writer has an obligation to attempt to shine some kind of new light on an actual event rather than simply regurgitating that event.

a pro

i've got some props.

i'm well a director.

chloe moss is quiet

matt le tissier, southampton's greatest ever player, was quiet too. he'd amble around the whole game. and you'd barely notice he was there. and then he'd score two blinding goals that would break your heart.

gun crime versus jingly-jangly folk songs

hmm. i must admit, this is proving tricky. it would be far easier if blacks were entirely to blame for every gun crime, then we could feel confident in making some sort of categorical statements. as it is, people like that white bloke in pennsylvania and those endless other whiteys like the kids in columbine, etc etc sure don't make it easy for us 'present:tensers'. also, it would be a whole lot better if white guys could stop listening to so much gangsta hip-hop. don;t they realise they are making it harder and harder for folk singers like me to categorise anything??
On a more serious note, I sincerely hope everyone is doing well. This was such a great night the first time, back in the little old,sadly discarded, red lion. It seemed that night that deadlines bring out the best in us all - less time to pontificate, deliberate and scribble things out and start again. You just have to put yourself out there and be prepared for the consequences. (It reminds me of that Butch Cassidy quote about Sundance being scared to jump off that cliff into the ravine, because he can't swim. "Swim?", Butch says, "the fall will probably kill you!") I remember Luke Wright, the fabulous poet whose company we will hopefully have on Sunday, telling me that the first Present: Tense helped him out of a writing rut, as he hadn't written anything in a while. Some of what he wrote for that night has stayed with me all this time since. I think the pressure to write brings out the best in people sometimes.
Anyway, I've now written two songs. Far too many words. Don't be at all surprised to see me on Sunday with those pieces of paper with lyrics all over them stuck to my guitar. Til then, goodbye.

draft three in and casting under way

So Joel's refined the story and pulled together the ideas into what is now, I think, a tight, succinct and impacting play - working title Short Fuse. I am half-way cast and have a rehearsal schedule but I have a feeling we'll be working to the wire. We have two actors, 8 characters, 4 different languages and 6 different accents, all in under ten minutes.

There's nothing like a challenge.

Hello everyone...

So a quick hello to everyone involved. I'm Az, the filmmaker of the pack. Apologies for not appearing at the dicussion on Sunday. So when I was told the subject, I thought pretty much what everyone else has been thinking about this. Middle class (brown) boy from the suburbs trying to make something about black gun crime.

So anyway, I've been freaking out about what to do. It's an odd thing doing a film in a week, even having done the first present tense. But the gratification of having pulled something off like this is so good. I guess that's why I enrolled again. But at this very moment I'm pooing my pants. And I've realised that I may have lost that drive to just go out and make a film. All the stuff I've made in the past year have required a lot of time, money and people. So when i'm throwing ideas around in my head, there's a little voice that keeps saying, 'no you can't do that without money. No you can't do that idea without a crew of thirty. Nope you can't make that without great actors and time to develop. Blah blah blah.' So this is good, trying to get back to the initial drive of when I was 15 or so and I grabbed a camera and made films with my brother (and George. Ask him to show you some of our 'classics').

But as usual, as soon as you stop thinking about what to make, an idea comes to you. What struck me the most (and someone else has mentioned this before) is the triviality with which these attacks can stem from. An argument about shoes, or like the guy in Hackney who was stabbed to death because he asked kids (who had broken into a communal area in the council block) to keep the noise down. Or as I once had the pleasure of facing, a guy threatening me because I so so barely scuffed his trainers with the back of my shoes. I did the wrong thing of standing up to the guy and I got punched in return (first time ever. man he dropped me....) Thinking about it I'm angry and afraid of the mundane way in which it started. Last night, I was with my mum who had come to visit and we walked to Tescos to get some stuff, she was carrying her umbrella as it was raining slightly. At the traffic lights there's a black guy in front of us with a cap on and a chequered bandana thing wrapped over his nose and mouth. Now, you say to yourself he's probably cold, but images of gangs just keep popping into your head. Then as we pass him, my mum's umbrella smacked him in the head. Mum didn't notice. I SHIT my pants. Looking out the corner of my eyes, I'm half expeciting him to stop, turn and pull out a gun or something. Obviously that didn't happen. It's ridiculous.

So anyway, I want to do something about that. The fear we have when we see a black guy in a hoodie and cap. Or even not a hoodie and a cap. I just want to do something really simple and play on the character's and audience's prejudices. Something like that. Hmmm. I wish I had the time to explore the effects this has on black people how they look on it if they were gang members, or not. I can sort of draw on my own experiences on that, with having to go through airport security, how people look at you and you know they're scrutinising you, watching how you act. And it doesn't help when my passport has a big ass visa stamp that says The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Great.

Right, that's enough, I hope that made sense, as I'm kind of thinking about the idea as I'm writing this, and it's changing in my head all the time. I'm just hoping this is not just going to be knee-jerk reactions put into film. Well we'll see. Right my stream of consiousness is now making me think of breakfast. And pancakes. With maple syrup. mmmmmmmmmmm

I have something on paper

...normally i would call it a first draft. This one has a start and an end but does it have anything of use imbetween. I hope so. Lucy will tell me.
Anyway, i decided that i would go in a slightly different direction. I think we all talk quite nobely about the reasons behind gun crime and how destructive it is, but i think for all the talk there is very little action. I have used this as the basis for my piece.
I'm going to read it again tomorrow when hopefully all the lines will have stopped blurring into one. Or that could be just the fact i need glasses and it will still be the same. Anyway i have something completed that i can work with.


First draft's in. I really had no idea that i was ever going to write like that. I've been pushed by this project into unfamiliar territory, it's exhillerating, and I'm scared shitless...


Joel's first draft...

...is due in my inbox in 5 minutes. I have one actors already cast so let's hope he's still in the play...


It's much easier being a director at this stage. Actually I think it's much easier being a director in general. All those words. They sound rubbish when you write them down. Well when I write them down anyway. But at the risk of sounding like a backseat driver, maybe it's precisely this difficulty we're all experiencing that we need to focus on. i.e. our difficulties assimilating with other people, and most importantly, with crime in our community. I like Joel's point about needing to take communal responsibility for problems in our social climate, (although really, he's got to get his first draft in tonight, so i don't know how he's got time for blogging...), in the sense that cultures of violence are engendered through social/political endorsement of that act in every corner of our lives. Much like we can't really be surprised when nine-year-old girls turn anorexic or credit card debts have doubled since last year. Our entire culture perpetuates these problems as plainly as noses on faces. And that attitude seems like a step in the right direction towards a greater collective responsibility for the problems in this country. But will it actually change anything? To attribute these problems to mere shifts and movements in government action or social trends seems to dismiss them as something which is beyond our control to fully understand and therefore deal with. Also, as John points out, it opens a whole can of worms about blame... Wouldn't it be better to channel our energies into accepting that we don't understand these things, but that we could, if we asked more questions, and more focussed, specific ones at that.


a) I think you're right that the blog works as a stream of consciousness

b) I think it's worthwhile to vent about the difficulty of this piece. We had a lot of things that were probably 'easier' to write about, but it seemed that the intention of our initial meeting was to select something that was a news story to which we all responded. It does mean that we're on unstable ground, as a result I feel really pushed, and I hate/love it.

c) There's no Leonard Cohen in your collection, I looked inside the CD case, it was The Best of The Bangles.

ps. I am refuse to edit out my stupidity.


like everyone says, this is hard. i confess i wasn't that impressed with the choice of story in the first place. i thought the ones we looked over were more ambitious in their scope as news stories.

That's not to undermine the nature of the shooting itself. The events reported are terrible and shocking. but they become no more or less terrible and shocking whether we produce work in response to the event. i say this in the spirit of honesty rather than to denigrate our selection. i'm struggling to think how to proceed. i think there's a practical problem with a rapid theatrical response to events on our doorstep. namely that real people were actually hurt and are, if my personal experience grief, loss and pain are anything to go by, still assimilating the experience. it's very very hard in the immediate aftermath of an event to do much more than listen to someones story and go "ahh, that's awful'. from first hand experience, i would say that someone empathising with your suffering in this way is incredibly important. wounds are often too fresh to sustain any deeper insight than this. fine when dealing with other human beings whom you want to comfort, or vice-versa, but does this, sigh of empathy, make for a valuable theatrical expression? And if not, what else do you do without being crass?

This is a long winded way of trying to put my finger on what i'm finding hard about this. it's very hard to create something that allows an audience to do anything more than that same, "ahh, that's awful", or its slightly more sophisticated theatrical cousin, "ahh, that's awful. and aren't we all to blame?"

several other bloggers have rightly drawn attention to the anomaly of a collection of white artists 'responding' to a story ostensibly about black gun crime. i'm struggling to avoid creating a piece of theatre that does more than draw currency from a collective sense of guilt without properly examining it. in other words, a play that prompts the audience to think, "ahh, that's awful, and aren't we somehow all to blame?" and then draw a perverse satisfaction from the fact they (and we) noticed the problem in the first place. i have left theatres having watched plays like this feeling that i'm somehow higher up the moral evolutionary ladder than someone who doesn't feel guilty. which is an absurd and arrogant way to feel. you watch some atrocities on stage. than go home. and worry about them in the dark. i don't i have an answer to this. my instinct says the audience has to empathise with the characters they see. which doesn't feel like much of an insight. and is very hard to achieve anyway.

i'm now glad we chose this story. it is difficult to write about, which seems right.

i've just read over what i've written. and it sounds pompous. but if this blog is going to be honest it seems unfair to edit stupidity . like my record collection, you have to wade through a lot of Tiffany and Bon Jovi before you get to my Leonard Cohen and Tindersticks. Now I just sound old.

Joel's Play

You're damn right it's a quick decision. This is going to be hard as hell. I'm taking a break cos my head was going to explode and my fingers weren't moving fast enough. Bold could equate to shit, but fuck it, at least this thing is making me write about something I find unfathomably difficult to write about.

Joel's Play

I spoke to Joel (whose play I am directing this week) last night and I think he has a very bold and exciting idea. I will allow him to fill in some of the details but he aims to have a first draft by tonight so we can being rehearsals on Wednesday evening. It's always tight trying to do something complete from scratch in a week but I think there's something useful in the need to make decisions quickly and then stick to them.


Joel's astute observation of postcode politics reminded me of a comedy gig I went to recently. Actually, it was at the Latitude Festival, a bastian, if ever there was one, of pleasant middle-class festivals. Not a drop of litter, aside from the odd stray copy of The Guardian, of course. Anyway, it was in the literary tent (you see, what other festival has those?), and some gently satirical anecdotes were drolly being wheeled out by some excellent comics, as us polite and well-informed audience members (drones) clapped & laughed in all the right places. Suddenly, apropos of absolutely nothing, a black man wandered in and stood right in front of the stage, shouting "SW19... SW19". His baseball cap was, naturally, on his head backwards. After a full minute or so of people thinking this was funny/strange/part of the act, someone behind me heckled this already bizarre heckler with "That's Streatham, isn't it?". And how we laughed, for yes, it was Streatham. So the audience proceeded, independently of each other, to shout out our own postcodes. It strikes me as interesting now, as this Brixton shootings gig approaches, that something so arbitrary as a postcode can be worn like a badge of honour.

Incidentally, for those of you who don't know who in blazes I am and what the hell I'm doing commenting on your blog, my name's Gavin and I'll be singing some songs. I wrote the first one yesterday actually, after I spent a long long time on the worldwidewonderweb. I live in Crystal Palace, which is a short bus ride/15 minute walk to Brixton. However, I started thinking about how much I actually know about black gang culture, considering I live close to one of its hubs. Not much, is the simple answer. Now, this McDonalds thing looks like something which was nothing to do with gangs or drugs or even being black, but from what I can gather seems more to do with CCTV footage of two dubious looking 17yr olds "popping in and out" of the 'restuarant', coupled with one man who took offence to something they may have said. Something I read in one of the articles online struck me as quite prudent to this debate "In the USA they work out how many jails to build in an area, by looking at the literacy rates of 9yr olds in that locality". So much of this black gang culture seems tied in to education, as young Afro-Caribbean black men in the UK are more likely to be excluded from school and get poorer grades, so is it any wonder they feel disenfranchised? The key part of the article (which sadly I cannot find anymore) read "How do you tell someone that instead of potentially earning thousands of pounds a week selling drugs, they should work as a £5per hour shelf-stacking gopher?"

For some reason, all of this has led me to writing a song about me acting as some sort of white middle-class saviour to these outsiders. The song I wrote last night is basically a gangsta anthem for my acoustic-folkie 'crew'. I think it works, but I should imagine you will be the judges. Curses! Now, like the rest of you fine artists no doubt, I have to make all my disparate thoughts come together into something vaguely resembling cohesion.

Best of luck to you, and thanks for letting me into your little 'gang' of bloggers. Now I know how 'webcameron' feels...



I've read a couple of the blogs, I'm late to this, I went to (real) work and just speant all day thinking about London. My thoughts about what to do are, as usual, furious. Probably to the point of leaning towards creating a stammering vomit of a piece.

This problem isn't limited to Brixton. The so-called 'post code shootings' of Dalston indicate that. It's not limited to London, the shooting in the shopping precinct in Nottingham over the weekend would indicate that. It isn't even limited to McDonalds, two years ago there was a 'shoot-out' (as it was reported) in Stonebridge Nando's. This problem is one of diminshed responsibility. I don't mean accountability, I mean a central awareness of personal responsibility. We live in the panoptican, watched every day by various lenses, with the voyeurism of Big Brother now neatly assimilated by reality TV into an acceptable social talking point. Our responsibilty has been stolen from us and we live recklessly. We invade countries to maintain our lifestyle, of course, stepping on shoes is going to be a big issue. If oil is more important than human life, why aren't shoes or social standing or 'post codes'?

There is a tendency, in our society to look for the quick fix. The story of that killing is neatly given a tag-line of a 'respect' killing. We can attribute it to a gang, or a petty dispute, and, like Matt, get on with things. I am not seriously suggesting that this shooting was conscious ly related to the 'war on terror'. I am not suggesting that the two bullets fired in McDonalds were fired by people who watched and immitated a government, but I am suggesting that a portion of the responsibility for that act lies with us. That it lies with an entire community and that this social trend is symptomatic of political events.


One of the elements of this discussion that interests me most is the fact that we are all generally coming from a white, middle class perspective, in attempting to understand this city we live in. As such, so much of what we want from and love about London is tied up and ingrained in other things that we fear or don't understand. Brixton's a perfect example of this conundrum. It's long been a home for political activists, for artists and for true multiculturalism, in particular for Africans and Jamaicans. Yet partly because of these reasons, it has experienced clashes with government - the Brixton Riots being a big example, and thus it has formed a vacuum into which poverty, crime and a rampant drug culture have drifted. I found this great article by a very right-on travel writer called Victor Borg, which gives an honest and tributary take on Brixton's uniqueness (-is that a word?)

The point is, we are part of that lively community. We cannot allow such events to polarize people and cultures. We live in these places. We can expect to feel safe in them. And 'we' means the entire community of Brixton, and London by extension.

Here's a great article that I'm not sure has been posted yet. Apologies if it has. It's the bit about guns being carried round like mobile phones that gives me the shivers...


what to do next

...so now we have decided on our story, what actually goes on...

well so far, nothing. I went home and watched Extras and Arrested Development last night [brilliant joke about a business card]. Not for inspiration but purely because i wanted to forgot about everything we had talked about that evening and come at it fresh in the morning.

Anyway...i told the fantastic Lucy Kerbill who is directing my piece, that i really dont like guns on stage and being a very white middle class boy who isnt from London i felt that i am likely to write about how this sort of attack affects me, rather than from the point of view of the communities in which the crimes are being committed.

But this is what's confusing me i dont actually know how i feel about these sort of crimes. Since i have been in London somebody has been stabbed to death outside my block of flats, a major gang battle has erupted in the childrens playground which i watched from my balcony, armed poilce have not let me into my flat because somebody in a house opposite was supposedly holding someone hostage and a man was axed to death outside in a school three hundred yards away. And each time something like this has happened all i've thought is i hope they get this cleaned up quickly so it doesnt inconvience me. Not at any point i have personally felt in danger. Despite the immediacy and closeness of these horrific crimes to me. However, i know that if i still lived in the small village i came from and just one random attack on a resident took place [ even a happy slapping, which is ten a penny in London] i would be scared. I honestly believe that there's something about this city, which allows us to disten ourselves from the immediacy of such acts. For example my response to the Brixton shooting was this:

I would have not been in McDonalds as i hate the food. So i couldnt have been caught up in the medly.

I spend a lot of time in Brixton and personally i find it so less intimidating than places like Wakefield, Barnsley, Hull and Chesterfield where the threat of drunken violence is only a pint of stella away. But maybe that's because i am a much more likely target in those places. A tall white male, who wears loud shirts.

One thing that does scare me about this whole gun crime 'respect' shootings is the trivial things that trigger theviolence. I cant get my head round the fact that somebody would shoot someone over something as petty as 'you've got shit shoes'. But then again i'm able to distance myself from these things as i've had a comfortable upbringing and dont have to fight for my survival in the same way that these [predominatly] young men do.

That's a lot of talk, really about nothing.

Anyway, i spoke to Joel this morning who as always was coming up with wild and brilliant ideas. We did talk briefly about doing a House and Garden style play [ Ackbourn's classic- two plays running into seperate spaces and then meeting in the middle] but we dont really have time to collaborate as he's going to Leeds. I aslo told him my rubbish idea based on a short film i once saw but cant remember its name, where in the play a male would be stood holding a gun aimed at a man, we all assume it doesnt go off and the guy who was going to be shot goes and has the rest of his normal day as if nothignhad happened, reunited with his mum and all that emotional rubbish only to be pulled back in at the last second by the fact that the gun did go off and we realise he was imagining the last day of his life. But i hate guns on stage and it's rubbish that idea. Joel said it was interesting though. He's so kind that boy.

I also kept having a line coming into my head: "today was the last day that i breathed" but i think i'll save it for something else.

However, after i spoke to Joel i read the articles that James posted and found myself drawn to the Daily Mail comment page. Brilliant. That's all i'll ever need.

Some tosser from Coventry came up with the brilliant line " we need to teach these people some old fashioned manners". What a twat. Don't most people who buy that paper support the war and hark back to our days of empire when we used to butcher anyone that got in out way. Couldnt the fucking pompous cock end realise that there's probably worst thing to start teaching these kids...

ah. That's where i'm going. That's the direction i will be taking this play in. As Nick Hytner said not long we need some nice little right wing plays.


I wasnt going to think about it until this morning but after watching those two brilliant programmes i did start to think about possible ideas.



Here's some links to reports of the McDonald's shootings:

The Guardian


Daily Mail


Daily Telegraph




and the topic is...

The shooting of two teenagers in McDonald's in Brixton.

After much deliberation over a stack of newsprint last night, the artists decided the violent attack on two 17-year-old boys in a crowded restaurant was the most important story on the news agenda.

Other contenders under lively debate were the stories about the imminent execution of Mirza Tahir Hussain in Pakistan; the ongoing crisis in Iraq; the sale of organs from executed prisoners in China and the acquittal of Stephen Green.

But ultimately the artists decided that the Brixton shootings was the story they most wanted to respond to.

They have one week...


I hate computers

and anything that people half my age are better than me at [ Skiing inparticular] so this blogging thing is a little bit like torture for me. Anyway this might not even work and i'll have just written this for no real reason...we meet today at 6. In a pub. Look at papers. That's all i know. When I know more i'll try and post it