Stratford-on-Avon PPCs: Zahawi, Johnston, Turner et al (and why you should save your spin for the Bodleian)

My prized collection of spin, hope and lunacy.

The John Johnson Collection, the Bodleian Library’s Archive of printed ephemera, are collecting material related to the General Election. If you have received any leaflets/postcards/scratch ‘n’ sniff perfume samples from your PPCs, don’t throw them away! Election ephemera can be sent direct to the relevant librarians – email me at clamorousvoice [at] gmail [dot] com to learn more.

PPCs for Stratford-upon-Avon (as of 29th April):

Conservative: Nadhim Zahawi
Labour: Rob Johnston
Liberal Democrat: Martin Turner
Green: Karen Varga
Independent: Neil Basnett
English Democrats: Frederick Bishop
UKIP: Brett Parsons
BNP: George Jones

What I’ve learned about these candidates, so far

In February, the blogosphere claimed that Zahawi had received “the promise of a safe Conservative seat” in Stratford – “ultra-safe”, according to the Voter Power Index. For a while, Jeffrey Archer’s crony looked set to become the Midlands’ latest British Asian Tory poster boy, along with the charismatic Allah Ditta, Worcester’s first Asian Mayor. Now, however, Independent Neil Basnett has frothed up to split the right-wing vote. He’ll do well – if Stratford’s unhappiest Tories are too blinded by bigotry to notice his lack of policies.

Meanwhile, Rob Johnston’s got himself a PPC webpage – even if it is empty – and was sighted at Alcester Grammar School. A schoolfriend of mine claims he bought her a drink and was nice (perk up, Johnston, I agree being given S-on-A to fight is shitty, but there’ll be another election soon and important people are watching). Martin Turner‘s a Baptist and knows a sheep farmer. Vince Cable likes him (Turner, not the shepherd). Karen Varga may just be a conspiracy theory. No, wait, she has a blog. The most recent entry starts “Weapons kill – no seriously“. I think I’ll vote for the sheep.

Stratford also boasts three nationalist-slash-racist-slash-embarrassing candidates, in the form of Frederick Bishop, Brett Parsons and George Jones (I shan’t link to them). From what I can gather, the English Democrats hate everyone who’s not English, UKIP hate everyone who’s not British, and the BNP hate everyone who’s not white (and British. And Christian. And straight). George Jones doesn’t look quite as hilarious as the pencil sketch I posted two weeks ago, but does resemble Fagin’s seedier half-brother.

Which is ironic.

I can’t vote Labour. I think the Liberal Democrats (and, realistically, a coalition government/hung parliament) are our best hope for a) change and b) the destruction of the New Conservative dream. I just hope Nick Clegg doesn’t meet any bigots in the forthcoming week. I bet Murdoch wouldn’t have broadcast Cameron with his microphone left on.

[Interview] AMERICAN AMAZON “I wouldn’t want some dumb actor getting credit for my language”

AMND 2007 (backstage before the final scene)
Cast members backstage before the final scene of A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2007. Photo: Satbir Singh.

Not that it is possible to “inflict” cancer on another human being, but I’ve  never been able to say “I’d never wish what I’ve been through on anyone.

Emily is the author of American Amazon, and  answered my Interview Meme a little while ago. She’s 25, and a brilliant writer, actress & teacher. We met when she auditioned for my production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in Spring 2007. We were in this bizarrely named basement in Exeter College, Oxford. I was in a bad temper with my producer for booking said basement, convinced that nobody would be able to find the auditions. In fact, I ended up meeting two of my favourite people that day – Karina (Helena), and Emily, whom I cast as Cobweb / First Fairy.

I always end up casting actors I think I’m going to like, but who intimidate me as well. Emily came through the door like a hurricane – I don’t know if she was in character or just pissed off – and did the audition incredibly fast. She was very thin, very mobile, with amazing eyes.  She and my Puck played opposite each other so well that their rehearsals were the easiest part of the process: constant insight & fun, with much directorial amazement at somehow getting two such talented people to turn out for me.

Ten months ago, Emily was diagnosed with Grade II breast cancer. She’s had chemo, a mastectomy in August, and is now back in the US & on hormone therapy for 5 years. This is not the most interesting thing about her, or the only reason you should read her blog. But it informs some of the questions I ask her, and some of the answers she gives. I asked her five questions — on cancer, mothers, poetry, lust and fame (one very weird dinner party) & she was kind enough to answer. The first Q&A is below:

1. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever imagined inflicting on another human being?


Not that it is possible to “inflict” cancer on another human being, but I’ve never been able to say “I’d never wish what I’ve been through on anyone.” I’m not a good enough person for that. Because honestly–I would. In moments of extreme self-pity and bitterness I have thought “better you than me.” Not necessarily toward  people I know, but toward pretty twentysomething girls on the street who seem so carefree and put together; toward stupid, senseless women who take their breasts out on television.

The most concrete, formulated wish for cancer-transference I had was in a Pret a Manger in the Hammersmith Piccadilly line tube station; I was waiting for an appointment at Charing Cross hospital, feeling sick and terrified, and I watched a woman scream at and smack her two-year-old child. I felt something so irrevocably wrong and unjust had happened in the world that I was the one with cancer, and she was the one with the child. It was also the moment at which I most truly and profoundly doubted the existence of God.

[for questions 2-5, with Emily’s answers, click here to visit her blog]

when women didn’t have to follow behind with the bucket (1916)

Primogeniture hangs heavy over the female genealogist, which is probably why there aren’t more of us in the field. For length of service, my grandfather (a man of index cards, clan tartans and a handsome volume in purple) takes some beating; for sheer sleuthing, the mother who found two aunts after fifty years demands respect. And now my grandmother is in on the act, demonstrating a laudable optimism as she scours Welsh BMD records for ancestors with such memorable Welsh surnames as Williams, Phillips and Morgan. Three shiny needles in an enormous Welsh needle shop.

I have a family tree drawn for me by my grandfather when I was about six or seven (the absence of my younger cousins gives the game away). Although one side of his family ran pretty quickly to yeoman farmers and conjecture, the family from which I take my surname included a whaling captain and an Anglo-Indian millionaire with a confusing will. I decided he’d been bumped off and circled him in red crayon to this effect, adding MURDERED?? in Penny Dreadful capitals in case anyone missed The Symbolism. My mum’s research was characterised by endless certificates and fits of hysteria in Bromsgrove Records Office, where we stopped just short of finding Quasimodo Crow but discovered all his Old-Testament-named, born-and-died-in-the-same-square-mile Black Country brethren. And my grandmother’s search? Well – photos.

Last week I scanned 130 for her as backups at her Cheshire home. Her aunt and uncle having been moderately famous photography pioneers, there’s a practical imperative: a biography for Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, or, er, the National Library of Wales. It’s also true that the joys of SCANNING and CATALOGUING and MAKING NICE LISTS satisfy the bit of my soul that genuinely enjoyed an academic term spent freezing in Magdalen Archives tallying the different ways in which Oscar Wilde wrote ‘A’. Most of all, though, I am a vintage photography junkie. I buy those depressing old pictures found by the tills in antiques shops. I turn to the picture pages in biographies before I’ve even read the title, my fingers rifling pages to find where the glossy paper begins. My interest in women’s education is analogous to my interest in genealogy – part self-obsession, part storytelling, part a historian’s belief in archives for archives’ sake.  One of my few bits of hagia sophia is the belief that everything you do, read, visit or think will be useful to you at some point. There’s no such thing as trash literature, or as time wasted (except, perhaps, on the internet). So I’m putting this picture out there in the hopes it’ll be interesting to someone other than me (and my gene pool).

So: above. University College, Cardiff (now Cardiff University), 1916. Education Class. My great-grandmother lies second from the right. She’s got brown hair, sunburned skin and many teeth, but it might be easier to tell you she’s the happiest one in the photo. Her name was Madge, and she moved into Aberdare Hall, the first women’s hall of residence in Wales, and the second in Britain. She became a teacher and rode a motorcycle and moved to Croydon and married a Welshman and had two children. Her father was a choirmaster and candidate for Most Welsh-Named Welshman of All Time: Evan Williams. Several sisters followed Madge to Cardiff, including a younger sister who’d die of tuberculosis before she could graduate in Maths.

The quad in the picture looks so like Oriel that it gave me pause (for those who know it — third quad, looking towards the war memorial). I didn’t overlap with my great-grandmother at all; she died when my father was little, having had a stroke within days of moving in with her daughter and son-in-law. At my grandfather’s funeral, my dad’s godfather gave me a different image of her: Madge, leaning against the fireplace, gin-and-tonic in hand, always laughing. It’s easier for me to reconcile that Madge with the sunny student than with the the invalid who died in the room where – eventually – her great-grandchildren learned to sing Sosban Fach.

If you have any old family photographs to hand, please do think about blogging them! I can’t be the only person who finds them fascinating, right?

this is the creed of hotel tumbleweed

Just blogged another photo to my photography blog (please, Sophie, make your written style more repetitivephotoblogphoto). I got incredibly lost the first time I tried to find Shakespeare & Co (my mother, should she read this, will interject to say that I’d seen Shakespeare & Co. before but mother that is another of those great cultural experiences you gave me in earliest youth & which accordingly I do not recall). Rue de la Bucherie is a street of lies, it’s split in two and Shakespeare & Co. is not where you would think. In the middle there’s a square to an homme politique and upstairs there’s a bed where a girl and her boyfriend were sleeping. They liked photography and time machines, according to their books. I left a message on the glass.

The next time I got lost again, which was much less of a laughing matter – I had Chloe with me in the wheelchair, and the Left Bank (while not as bad as Opera, after which I became like a bird with broken wings) longs only to chuck its wheelchair users into the traffic via potholes. But we found the homme politique again and there’s a lovely photo of us flanked by tramps in a dustbowl. Chloe looks winsome but I look Satanic, so it won’t be published here.

Here’s the shop’s website. I’m going back soon.

(tumbleweed is sort of the way I currently feel about this blog. But watch this space. Also, you know what I do not love? Christmas theatre tickets costing an arm and a leg yet giving you space for neither, at the edge of row X …wow, that last phrase sounds like the title for a kinky if clinical B-movie.)

swine flu no. 2

I still have swine flu. I am coughing and aching (EVERY JOINT. Apparently flu’s a generational thing on which we chillens missed out, although Katie’s had it and she’s only 25) and falling asleep at things. I am also simmering with resentment about how it is AUGUST, and GOOD WEATHER, and yet instead of the following —

  • being at the Fringe
  • earning money
  • travelling to distant lands and making an hilarious blog (English really needs ‘y’) about my time there, subsequently landing myself a book deal
  • writing a slim volume of something extraordinary
  • reading fat volumes of something(s) extraordinary(yies)
  • touring in a play
  • learning Welsh (my new LIFE PLAN, after ‘teaching deaf children’ and ‘photography’)

I am restricted to doing the following —

  • Watching all of Criminal Minds (note: this was nearly stopped this morning when my internet died. I spent half an hour composing impassioned posts about how it was wrong of the internet to stop when it is basically MY LIFELINE, then the internet came back on and I realised what an arse I was being),
  • Reading all of Achewood — I don’t even know. It’s not funny. It’s not clever. It’s certainly not attractive and yet I read at least two years’ worth yesterday. This despite the fact I can’t follow normal text unless it’s
  • Good Moon Rising, which is both AWESOME and DREADFUL and I so wish I’d read it at fifteen. Though it might have given me unreasonable expectations (it’s a gay, American Noel Streatfeild wherein nobody dies). Also I fell asleep midway through.
  • Falling asleep at my friends (do you see a theme?), and/or sending them emails which basically convey ‘bring me icecream’, and follow-up emails, ‘why isn’t the ice-cream here yet?’, and
  • Coughing. All the sodding time.

Crucially, I can only do the above in ten-minute bursts (well, except sleeping and watching CM) before exhaustion hits and I want to upchuck again (I am not actually upchucking). I now have no discernable interests except Criminal Minds and my own health. Can I say Criminal Minds some more? Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds.

I did make a blog for my photography, though (just slipping that one in). It’s here. I stole the title from a song recommended by somebody with better musical taste than me (possibilities: all). If you are my friend I will probably put your picture on there. I apologise in advance.

Nuns & Nipple-Sucking: PHOTOS of the Oriel 24 Hour Play

John-Mark Philo strikeas himself/strike
John-Mark Philo as himself

The fifth annual Oriel 24 Hour Play, the Annals of Tathituth, smeared Oriel 2nd quad in oozing redness on 2 June 2009. Stumbling out of my dissertation-induced stupor, I went along to see my college son (yes, college father to racist berk Nick Gallagher of OUCA – so very proud, dear readers) shirtless, bleeding, and breastfeeding a ram’s skull (as well as, eventually, most of the cast). We students know how to live. As well as John-Mark Philo, the aforementioned lactating dramawhore, the play (which was written by James Methven, John Bohannon and Joe Brennan, all of whom sound vaguely like anagrams of each other) featured Sophia Satchell-Baeza and Jay Bernard, who blog at Betty Swallow and Brrnrrd respectively. Any review of the Annals of Tathituth would be less an attempt at dramatic criticism than a chronicle of increasing horrific and orally-fixated events, although Sophia’s had a go at spreading the love in Nuns and Nipple-Sucking(which would have been a better title for the play). The Cherwell (print) photos are mine, and here are the best of the rest:


Ollie Mann, Katie Carpenter and Jay Bernard.
Ollie Mann, Katie Carpenter and Jay Bernard.
Carpenter and Mann defy the captioner's art.
Carpenter and Mann defy the captioner's art.

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Fabian Theatre, Paterson.
Fabian Theatre, Paterson. (c) Marchand and Meffre.
Maschinenfabrik Swiderski, Leipzig. (c) Marchand and Dumerre.
Maschinenfabrik Swiderski, Leipzig. (c) Marchand and Meffre.
Loews Palace Theatre, Bridgeport. (c) Marchand and Dumerre.
Loew's Palace Theatre, Bridgeport. (c) Marchand and Meffre.
(c) Marchand and Meffre. Lee Plaza Hotel Ballroom, Detroit.
Lee Plaza Hotel Ballroom, Detroit.(c) Marchand and Meffre.
(c) Marchand and Dumerre. Lee Packard Motors Plant, Detroit.
Lee Packard Motors Plant, Detroit.(c) Marchand and Meffre.
(c) Marchand and Meffre. St Margaret Mary School.
St Margaret Mary School, Detroit. (c) Marchand and Meffre.
Bleichert Transportanlagen, Leipzig. (c) Marchand and Dumerre.
Bleichert Transportanlagen, Leipzig. (c) Marchand and Meffre.
Piano. (c) Marchand and Dumerre.
Piano. (c) Marchand and Dumerre.

These images are the work of French photographers. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.  As you can see, they have a bit of a thing for ruins, and I have never loved any photography so much. Choosing from the three collections (The ruins of Detroit | Forgotten theaters of America | Eastern Germany indiustrial vestiges) was impossible – I could live in any of these photographs for a hundred years. I’m trying to quantify why, but don’t yet have the vocabulary to discuss photography. But it’s like you can see the stories of these places etched in the photographs; they’re very narrative, there’s not just the sense but evidential proof of process (like any images of degeneration and decay). But at the same time – with the play of the light – there’s the simultaneous stamp of stasis and immediacy, that sense of now and nothing else, not ever. I love them. I want prints of all of them. Wall-sized prints. External walls.*

Oh my God, their photography blog is nearly as amazing, and it’s by a whole host of different people. Goodbye kisses, productivity.