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backwards into the future

      Two warnings! One: spoiler alert for the Steve McQueen films Lovers Rock and Alex Wheatle. Two: sexual violence and police violence come up a lot   The police car idles but doesn’t stop. Lovers Rock is unusual within the Small Axe series in that respect: in the other four films Steve McQueen looks at Britain as a police state, one quicker to criminalise and attack than it is to educate or support. But in Lovers Rock, co-written with Courttia Newland, a different kind of social organisation becomes visible: a community working together to diminish or defuse potential harm. A glimmer of abolition in action. I’m going to admit, my knowledge of the ideas behind that word abolition is cursory: I’ve barely dipped into the work on this by Black feminists including Angela Davis, Mariame Kaba and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and most of what I think is based on a few compelling articles published online. One was a conversation in the New Inquiry between four womxn of colour writers

Three anchors and the Gate

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      Back in the before times I used to play a game of my own devising with a cumbersome title that changed according to mood. Usually it was See All the Art and Definitely the Art by Friends But Especially the Art that Will Feel Like Fresh Air; sometimes it was See as Much Art as Possible While Not Erasing Time for Other Human Things; and in a bad month it became Try To See All the Art Even Though It’s Impossible Without Becoming Totally Exhausted and Losing Heart or Mind. The picture above the recording is of a typical game card. On one side is a list of possible dates: evenings that weren’t already booked up with other theatre, or work, or dance practice, or occasional obligatory family time. On the other side is a list of things I was trying to squeeze in: theatre, films, a discussion event. This was the game card I was working on earlier this year, as February shook hands with March, and Covid-19 sidled through the country. I’d spent a maddening number of hours matching and re

in search of delight

January was its usual brittle mess; February I swept up the shards and read two self-help books simultaneously, swapping from one to the other every few pages, like feet moving forward, right left right left. I’d tried to read John Paul Flintoff’s How To Change the World before, in 2017, but was defeated at page 28 when he insisted I ask myself impossible questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I doing this?” before I continue. This time around I found more kindness towards myself, and I’m going to credit Flintoff, along with my friend Selina, for the fact that I’m now involved in local Mutual Aid work , checking in with a smattering of neighbours and diffidently waiting for someone to need me. Selina also pointed me in the direction of Beth Pickens’ Your Art Will Save Your Life . Written in the immediate aftermath of the Trump election, it calls itself a love letter to artists but really it’s a set of tools and strategies offered with a plea: to keep making work, to

scattered thoughts of a busy fortnight

In the fortnight after publishing the first post on here, I – 1. held a class in theatre criticism with five students on an MA programme, looking at reviews of Scrounger, waiting until the end to tell them who the writers were or where they were published. It’s a super interesting way of thinking about criticism, because it quickly exposes the similarities in length, style and tone across newspaper, journal and online criticism: a surprising level of conformity. (The group thought six of the 11 reviews I gave them to read were published in newspapers; in fact it was only two.) We talked a lot about one review that took umbrage at there not being captions for Scrounger, how the writer probably thought they were standing up for access needs, but in fact came across as appallingly insensitive, criticising the disabled performer rather than the need for captioning across theatre. All of my insides squirmed, because Athena Stevens, creator and star of Scrounger, had

open for business

I’ve done an audio version of this post! Thank you to The White Pube , Kate Kavanaugh of The Circus Diaries , Chiron Stamp and Ria Hartley for helping me appreciate that this would be useful. x -- “Academics, activists, artists, and cartoon characters have long been on a quest to articulate an alternative vision of life, love, and labor and to put such a vision into practice. Through the use of manifestoes, a range of political tactics, and new technologies of representation, radical utopians continue to search for different ways of being in the world and being in relation to one another than those already prescribed for the liberal and consumer subject.” J. Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure Add to the first list, people who write about theatre. Add to the second, theatre blogs. * I’ve read 17 reviews of Athena Stevens’ play Scrounger and a lot of them describe it as an uncomfortable experience. This is how [my] excellent, astute [friend] R