Seven years of neighbourly patronage of The Arcola Theatre recently led to my first Radio 4 documentary commission. A Tale of Two Theatres was broadcast on 3rd April and will be aired again on the BBC World Service on 13th May. Here’s a taste of how artistic director Mehmet Ergen’s work in Hackney is only half the story, as he lifts the curtain on the politics of performance in Turkey, in the wake of Taksim Square.
Last summer, I eavesdropped on some exceedingly good deeds being done by a creative and kindly Londoner, one Bernadette Russell. I won a commission for the PRX Global Story Project run by the American Public Radio Exchange, so turned the audio into a documentary featurette. It’s since been bought by the NPR stations KUT in Austin, Texas and KHSU in Arcata, California and just in time for Valentine’s, it led to Bernadette being invited onto BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live as a guest- alongside the Milkman of Human Kindness himself, Mr. Billy Bragg. Please read on for the full spiel, or better still take a listen to the 6 minute, 15 second sound story here.
During the leap year of 2012, Bernadette Russell embarked on a mission to complete 366 Days of Kindness. Her efforts were prompted by the riots that spread through her adopted home town of London and across English towns and cities, between 6th and 10th August 2011.
Bernadette has left sweets in phone boxes, books on trains, £5 notes on buses. She has given away balloons, cakes, flowers and lottery tickets, written letters to a soldier returned from Afghanistan and offered her socks to the homeless. She practiced ‘targeted’ rather than ‘random’ acts of kindness but she says she ‘expected nothing in return.’
Bernadette is now turning her 366 philanthropic experiences into a stage play, in collaboration with Jacksons Lane Theatre in London and with support from Birmingham Rep and Forkbeard Fantasy.
My two-penneth on the financial crisis- by way of a gay art house club night in Stoke Newington- as published by The Londonist Club Watch: Queers in Crisis @ Vogue Fabrics.
In May, my debut documentary went out on Radio 1 and lives on via the Radio 1 profile on Soundcloud. It’s a 60 minute spoken word documentary on disabled access to live music, featuring The Mystery Jets, Ghostpoet and Emily Eavis. Presenter Nihal investigates live music access and finds it’s much more than ramps and wristbands. He goes backstage and in the mosh pit with gig-goers and artists across the disability spectrum, to find out what equal access means- and why it should matter to everyone.
When my friends and I got our acts together and synchronised iCalendars to attend Hackney Attic’s Question Time Tweet-a-Long, the event had already garnered cult status (Dimble-Dancing, dedicated drinking games, even an on-camera shout-out from Dimbers himself). So much so, The Guardian were on to it.
It is part dream come true, part cliché come-down to find yourself doing exactly what people would expect of you (attending an ironic-liberal-digital-dance-off in an attic above an art house cinema in east London, say) and then find yourself being interviewed about it for your all-time favourite paper. Luckily, I later found myself being ever so slightly misquoted and sounding rather more morose than most people who know me would expect, so I managed to override my programming after all, albeit by proxy. Oh and I got to see Grace Petrie perform, which was at once so plaintive and impassioned that I forgot who was Tweeting what about who and lost myself in her ‘Emily Davison Blues’. Which is probably just what you’d expect, isn’t it?
A combination of radio artistry and technical wizardry unlocks a storied patch of east London: my profile of the Hackney Hear sound app for the Hackney Citizen.
Visitors to this site in the last six weeks or so would be forgiven for thinking the proverbial Post Its have lost all their rainbow lustre and subtle adhesive quality, shrivelled up and floated to the ground, like so many trampled Autumn leaves. Not so. Well, not quite. This blog-beast is merely hibernating whilst its keeper offers her services beyond her East End comfort zone; which isn’t to say that a bit of local knowledge hasn’t served her well up town, as this post for Time Out’s blog Now Here This hopefully testifies:
Burn baby, burn.