Setting the Scene – Life and the Stage

This week’s papers have had a number of articles about our theatres and what they produce, and in particular about the lack of women’s roles within companies, on the stage and as writers.

I can recall having this same discussion with a group of youth leaders and their concern over youth organisations being dominated by the white middle class male and how that could be changed. Can it be changed we wondered, if that’s how society  was put together.

There has been so much recently in the news and in our lives on this island about the behaviour and attitude of the dominant elite in our society and how they perceive the rest of us and how things should be.

Should – don’t like that term. Should belongs to the world of the safe. That’s not to say that we must do away with safe, but what we must add is a good breath of radicalism, diversity and difference.

Is it likely to happen? At the moment it all feels like a nationalistic convergence towards the sheep-like mentality preferred by the ‘Safe Shoulds’. We’ve rolled from Jubilee, to footie, to tennis, now the olympics. All of this is about conformity, we are compelled to join together during these tough times and prove ourselves to be a stoic society (yes I include Scotland in this too – asserting itself and conventionally so).

Will anything break this place of clinging to the conventional ways change and who will start it? I’ve no idea -most likely a writer though. I really do hope that it happens otherwise we are doomed to spend our existence in the straight jacket of safe for decades. Producing never-ending Shakespeare, Opera etc all in the same vein for ever and ever.

I have also  never understood why there aren’t more adaptations from literature to the stage where there are more FMC’s and young people as MC’s. What are we afraid of? And surely this is a good way to encourage young people in to the theatre too? I really enjoyed Something Wicked by NTS – as did my child. There were plenty of young people in the audience.

I have heard people in the arts say that young people should (there we go again) know their place in society and not be encouraged to be in charge, be too forward with their art. It seems some adults want to maintain their middle-class positions and their ‘right’ to play, go see what they want to and not allow young people to do as they wish. Pants to that!

But the articles are right in that theatre is a reflection of  how society is controlled – why would it be any different -what would make it radical? Same with any set-up. If a group mimics society then it will be no different in its aims and vision. If a group evolves around a community of the mind – maybe it will. But in there lies all means of radicalism -some of which I don’t care for either!

The changes begin earlier in life – by people realising that allowing free-spirit is a good thing for all of us. Conformity only brings staidness. This week our high school went about choosing their head boy and girl. My son went for the depute position, but was made head boy. He was surprised. I was obviously pleased not just for him, but for the school itself. The two people chosen for top positions represented the other side of society – the compassionate, articulate free-spirit radicals, working-class – who would gain from being trusted with responsible positions and have a huge amount to offer too. Some will complain and mutter as they do – but let them.

We have to accept that allowing and giving positions in our society to people from diverse backgrounds is a GOOD THING. You only have to look at what has happened in the lap of the white middle class male to Britain to see that. It has been a monumental cluster-fuck. Bring on the changes we need, and we will see our arts and culture bloom too – I hope! More women, more young people, more of everything else outwith the “Safe Shoulds”.

Dalai Lama: Young people first – it’s their future

Francois Matarasso: Diversity in art and culture will save us

Fakelore Folklore History and Myth

Listening to the Dalai Lama yesterday in Inverness after a week of speculation about Fakelore (a term coined in this article on Gypsy Fiddle Music and its presence in the history of music http://www.fiddlingaround.co.uk/hungarian/index.html), much has been going round my mind re history versus myth. What do we treasure the most and is that defined by what type of collector of information we are and what we do with it.

It has undoubtedly been a difficult journey in trying to attain equal music education as a parent for my child and seeing the petite bourgeoisie raking in cheap lessons, free instruments and gigging opportunities under the banner of traditional music. The irony of this of course, is my family background, which most music ‘teachers’ fail to recognise and that we are in a different place when it comes to music-making, the history of music, naradno and selansko pjesme.

By far the most creative people I know have the traveller within. You can define the term traveller as you wish. You know if you are one – you sit outwith the pretensions of  society, community and its control (whatever that means now) and feel the world in a different way – it’s in the eyes. That feeling comes through our music-making. So to the person who says my child moves too much when he plays guitar – sweetheart…we’re just in a different headspace ok?

What’s all this to do with the Dalai Lama you ask. I don’t really know, I can’t put it in words. It’s just a feeling -something to do with  happiness and contentment. What am I doing right now – smiling.

Ovako bre!

Me and the Dalai

Have you ever tried to meditate? You’re probably really good at it. I’m not. I have a HUGE admiration for people who have that kind of focus. The only time I could describe myself as being in a meditative state is when I used to paint and draw. There would be long moments in time of being at one with a piece of work. Nothing else mattered, nothing else was in my mind. Haven’t painted a picture for twenty years. That is, completed a whole one. Plenty of half done ones by the book case behind me.

Plenty of paint brushes, pastels, charcoal, inks, nibs on the shelf to my right. And down in the seagrass basket by my feet there are tubes of used acrylic paints. Friends and family members would buy me these things for presents, and art books. I have plenty of those too.

People still pester me. Why aren’t I painting? My own child despairs of my reluctance to take it up again. I ventured to the local print studio a while ago with a friend for a couple of sessions. I loved the serenity and calmness of the space. It suited me, because in fact I am a peace-loving person.

I spent some time when at home, looking after my son, learning new decorating techniques – even venturing on to an Open College course. The folder is somewhere – the course was on interior design. So I decorated a few folks’ rooms. Again working with a brush and tin of paint gave me that sense of calm. I moved on to the OU and studied Art History and Modern Art scoring over 95% in assignments and exams.

My art teachers at high school liked my work, indeed raved about it. They were both of an era – 1950’s I think, and liked work from then and before. This amused me. Some of my work was about visions and dreams and some still life. I enjoyed both types of expression  – pouring over an apple or red pepper for hours was really satisfying. Seeing all those  hues.

Colour does it for me. One of my art teachers used to give me free paints, pastels and paper. We were pretty poor at the time. No, we were really poor and he knew it – mills closing and all that. I still have a couple of tubs of poster paint and some old pastel ends from school.

So what did I want to do with my life? An art and design course – textiles mostly. Did I? No. Instead I decided that too many people had hard lives and I wanted to help in some way.

Most of us thought we would go work in textiles  – making, buying, selling. Instead we became civil servants – those of us lucky enough to get the work. A lot of young people had nothing at all and became the lost generation, now the parents and grandparents of forgotten children – you know – the ones the middle classes love to hate.

Now I have a notion in my head that art is what folk should do when life’s a piece of shit. They should do it together, make, create, be and forge a new and stable future for themselves. It’s like we have to go back to the cave, learn to appreciate what we can make and enjoy it, and not want the funcy over-priced things. But will that happen in a world determined on self-determinism and palace-building?

Somebody, somewhere is meditating on the same ideas. Somebody, somewhere will start the process.

Search for Swedish artist Per-Olof Olsson’s BAKERY JAZZ…no images here today.