The sun is out, I have a new garden to play with (huh, for now) and my mood is a tad better. I’ve been in the wilderness of serious ill health and dealing with the consequences of that. But I’m coming back into the throng, slowly. The Abnormally Funny People gig was good, though laid me low for awhile. I am maybe a little more scarred at the edges that’s all. Scars inside and out, and ones I wear with honour.
I feel many of us will be battle scarred by the end... Today I attended a consultation run by my very excellent DPO, regarding the change from DLA to PiP, which the crypto-fascist government intends to force upon us. I had read summaries of the changes but here was the vile reality laid bare in much more detail. And that reality left me incredulous and afraid. For myself and for us all. We really are teetering on the brink of being forced back into being the crippled, mad, sick undeserving poor of a workhouse era. The stick to beat us must be hard and punitive. We must suffer. How dare we be who we are and scrounge.
In my view PiP is an instrument consciously designed to fail, to help us on our way to early and money saving death. It is ghastly in its cheek, a weak pretender of progress in the form of a terrifying executioner. However, I am also struck that this murderous proposition is so unworkable and unsustainable that it cannot in the end succeed. I hope. Yet I fear there will be a lot of pain before that is realised. Pain and lives destroyed; lives lost. Which is exactly what they want.
My glimmer of hope struggles on from realising how many people this change will effect. I believe it will be millions. The ConDem devils are not interested in ‘real’ disabled people, in our lived lives. The ideas within PiP give evidence to that. We are the scapegoats of the national debt and we are considered a soft target. But with us comes those around us. Carers, paid workers, families. Disabled children with outraged parents. Elderly disabled people with outraged offspring. It goes on and on, a tree of ramification and consequence we MUST utilise.
My mum received Attendence Allowance for me when I was young – the precursor of DLA. It was essential to her in multiple ways the ConDems cannot possible imagine in their rich boy wallet bulging dreams. But mums and dads will be angered. Daughters and sons will be angered at the imposition of PiP. With more to come… so let's grab hold of this!
WE must all be angry. We must speak out, come forward, be counted. A few people said to me about the consultation process: "isn’t this pointless, they’ll do what they want anyway?" Perhaps they will, but we must fight in whatever way we can. For me this is through my work, my words, always, within the boundaries of my impairments and the barriers we face every day.
I will NOT go gentle into that good night! Now, back to the garden, while I can.
I doubt any of my pals are surprised I didn't manage to post a DadaFest write-up part two. Distraction, distraction... That's my problem. Sometimes I fire so many simultaneous thoughts that they lead me around in exhausting circles, and leave me in a woeful state bemoaning that I haven’t completed any project. I hope this will change this New Year. If you are ever on the end of my distraction issue – apologies. OK, I have had a weight of annoying health issues too, but the distraction does not help.
I was very chuffed at being short-listed for an Emerging Artist award at DadaFest. I’ve been in emergence for quite some time, and while I applaud Pete Edwards for winning and his ground-breaking piece ‘Fat’, I do think I need to get on with it. Emerge and cut out, yes, distraction, and procrastination!
On a more sombre note, here we are in 2011 facing grim battles with the government and some very fundamental challenges to our human rights. I’m directly affected by the changes to housing benefit, independent living funds and the attacks on Access to Work. Through my connection to various DPOs and of course the arts movement, I have to say it is truly terrifying what is taking place.
We must act in all ways we can manage, on the streets and from our homes (while we have them!) I believe the government believes we have no ‘power’ or clout. We have to show them otherwise.
From a perspective of recent personal experience and my old codger status, I believe the ‘them and us’ mentality continues to underpin the absolute cynicism shown towards us. We, as in disabled people, still carry labels imposed on us, experience barriers we did not create, and clearly, behind the rhetoric, we don’t matter much.
We invariably remain ‘the other’. Not their problem really, not a thing to think about. We are alien and over ‘there’, in a box, to be avoided until something pushes us into their snide, non-disabled mindset; to make a token political gesture, to gain temporary brownie points.
I know that thankfully we do have non-disabled allies amongst our friends and families, and I wondered recently if we could do something akin to what Harvey Milk did for gay rights. I was incredibly inspired by the film, in the way he thought outside the box.
Is there an equivalent of ‘outing’ for us as crips, with our allies, that would make a point!? To re-establish that we are connected to families and friends, embedded within society, we are part of it and contribute to it in myriad ways from our vibrant and unique arts scene to the fact that we can challenge old ideas about ways to live. We’ve always been overlooked and now it’s worse. We’re burdens, we’re tragedies, we’re tabloid tainted scroungers. We are inconveniences who cost a lot of ‘public’ money (a public we are not part of). The tired, tired clichés go on and on.
I’m not psychologically fit to go on many demos; but I know I can take these thoughts into my work with passion. And that is what I am doing now, with every beat of my heart.
Let’s rally. Let’s get political and personal. Bring it on.
At last I've written a film script and I'd really like to get some good actors for this 5 min short, which is for a competition.
Naturally, this is an EXTREME micro, micro budget. It's me doing everything on my Sony DV Cam. I can feed and water actors and pay very basic travel out of my own pocket as a thanks. And give a DVD at the end.
The short film 'Diary for Lawrence' was chosen for a showing by Shape at an event in Wimbledon recently. I also made it to the shortlist of the She Writes women script writers scheme.
I need to film it within the next 2-3 weeks hopefully, but I will be scheduling it quite tightly, so wouldn't really need anyone for more than an hour or so.
If disabled actors play the Drs they have to be able to 'pass' as non-disabled - but happy to use non-disabled actors in this context. Will do very brief auditions if I get a lot of offers.
Sophie Partridge will play Jackie.
Please email me via email address: pennylion[at]hotmail.co.uk
Thanks for your help Penny P.
Happy new year and all that. But without snow, please. Yes it's pretty. But, of course, not accessible. It makes me apathetic. I have so many projects on the go, and I feel frustrated many are stuck because there's this freeze up of the UK.
Last month I was here there and everywhere inbetween being ill. I went and modelled for Tanya Raabe and we were on Paul Darke's radio show. I managed not to swear - I don't do that generally, but radio can make naughtiness pop out. Going up to Wolves again soon, performing with the lovely Jo Cox.
I did some exciting stuff in Brighton on Dec 3rd, sharing the stage with Liz Carr, which was sooo much fun. The Jesus poem went down well - I think, though we all felt the audience were a little subdued.
I've had ridiculous toothache - an abscess. The tooth needed yanking and of course this became a bit of a palaver as I am not one of those Norms with standard shaped anything. In the end out it came but now rather sore and grumpy.
Question: I am re vamping my flyer for Spoken Word gigs. Should I be disabled specific and why? Am I that, and yet more? Is it a label I need anymore, and who is it for? Are there any historical equivilents and parallells and can they guide me?
Come on, lets debate and argue! It might make me feel less.... disaffected!
I look at my last blog and wonder if there's a conspiracy against me concerning time. It really is relative. Ok I don't know what that means exactly, but I have a twinge in my guts that it's related to um, what you are doing.
So, I suppose I must be happy that time is hurtling by because I've been very creative when not doing great impersonations of a Victorian In-valid with a porcelain sick bowl. Yeah, the bugs have been at me and in me, urgh, but I'm fighting the good fight.
I'm juggling the balls of about 5 creative projects even so.. A great deal of my time is taken up with my film making. It became tiring, writing scripts, writing treatments (tormenting things, they are) to face constant disappointment. So I bit the bullet to start making shorts on a decent Sony Handycam.
Here's my latest piece - 'Bonfire please please please view and rate for me as this is a competition! I hope you are all infected with the sense of fun. We had a ball, me and Janis, keeping ourselves in the main rowdy throng, though it's not for the faint hearted.
I would love you all to view and comment on my YouTube pieces too. There's a narrative short on there now Diary for Lawrence which was the first film I edited having had lessons from Katherine Araniello. I hope she's proud of me!
There's a few others on there so please have a peek. The first one was 'Toilet Trauma in Epping Town'. The power of the internet can be damn amazing. The film, done as a piece of fun on the spur of the moment, was picked up by a local newspaper, I was interviewed. The council was challenged, promises were made. I believe the Invalid sign has been painted out as a first step! Wow.
There's also been a flurry of activity on my spoken word, at least in terms of writing new material. You can see a clip on my Youtube page from 'Bums, Homes and Hell'' - which is from my BAC Scratch performance of last year. This version was filmed at Ada Street in May.
Which reminds me...
Recently I ventured into Peacocks. Yes, the clothing store. And then, lo....!
Jesus Saved Me in Peacocks
By the purple stiletto heels
A woman told me he loves me
That He understands how I feel
Maybe it’s true that in Peacocks
Many gods lurk in the clothes
The rumpled crumply undies
The dresses in disordered rows
....that's a taster, there's more and I hope to perform the rest in Brighton on Dec 3rd!
Meanwhile, yes, of course there's a meanwhile - I've been networking with Graeae in their fine new building, I've been up to Shape to see Tanya Raabe's incredible portraits, I've modelled for her (naked of course) in Wolverhampton, and been on Paul Darke's radio show.
Phew. Watch this space, all spaces and any new space that may appear where a Penny might fit some new tales to tell. Sod the sick bowl.
Oh bum. Big bums. Double big bums. I wrote a fantastic blog, I really did and guess what? I clicked back by mistake and it vanished. As I sit here crying and laughing simultaneously, there's a lesson for you all. For fuck sake always save. I should know better. But I guess I never will.
Anyhow, not long back from a four day frenzy in Edinburgh. At Fringe universe, which is a parallel universe where there is no time, it's not even relative, except as to whether it's drinking time or eating time. Crowds gather, all hours, like buzzing little hives, moving between events and sustenance - and now I am become one of them.
As I flip off the train bleary eyed after a four hour plus journey, I try to adjust quickly to Edinburgh's multilevel, history thick, street ways. Everywhere seems a warren of steps and confusing ramps and the sky is a sulky grey. But eventually I find my way to the hotel, just off The Royal Mile, and before I know it, I'm scooting off to see Ju Gosling's exhibition Abnormal (
http://www.scientificmodelofdisability.co.uk) which is on at Theatre Workshop, on the edges of Fringe land. It's something of an endurance test, much tougher than anything on Beyond sodding Boundaries getting here as a wheelie as Edinburgh's craggy cobbled streets go up and down like a mini mountain range. Thank the gods for a strong armed PA and various friendly natives stopping this soft southerner from going splat on her face.
Shown in the somewhat cramped confines of Theatre Workshop's cafe, this is my first time seeing Ju's exhibition. Apart from a little disappointment at the striking colourful prints of wheelchairs being hung too high for me, I am most struck by the humanity in Gosling's work. While placed inarguably within an equalities framework, the pieces have a universality and a gentle humour I liked very much. I particularly like the cheeky little amusement arcade 'grabber', which picks you a genuine Chinese fortune inside what I believe are needle cases.
I'm realising as I write that I can't do a chronological blog, as the festival doesn't deal in linear. It's sensory overload mostly, and the feeling of moving, bouncing in my case (the cobbles!) from event to friend, friend to event and so on.
On my first evening, Liz Carr offers me a ticket to see comic Adam Hills (http://www.adamhills.com) at the Gilded Balloon. Hills has a relaxed style and his take on his own disability and in general is funny, sometimes bizarre but always with ownership. I liked him.
Each day blurs into a merry-go-round of linking up with friends who are performing or seeing shows. In my usual state of poor planning I had not managed to secure anything myself in advance, but ambition sharpened a few little claws inside me, and I spotted a cabaret open mic going on at Zoo Southside and the open night at the Scottish Story Telling Centre.
Now I consider myself a story teller in the broadest sense. I can tell a tale in any form really, it somehow all slots together in the head, the heart, and comes out. But story telling in this sense is different. No safety net of a book, a script, a scrap of paper. It can be a retelling, it can be a reclaiming, a passing on of a tradition. Of course I am most interested in making sure that the stories of disabled people past and present, are told and acknowledged. So urged on by the knowledge Liz was going to be there grinning at me, and sensing the audience were friendly, I went for it.
I was third up, after some trad pieces. I was shaking and breathless, aware that I would be quite a novelty to them.
My piece was based loosely around an experience from my own childhood, but transmuted into a pared down story telling style, on themes of exclusion and racism. I surprised myself - eight minutes passed and I had a warm response. A man in the audience made complimentary noises, pushed a piece of paper into my hand. He was an award winning story teller, and this was his contact details, and an offer to publish me on his website, and translate me into Russian - ! A magical moment of Fringe.
There will be a part two - tomorrow, maybe over the weekend. I'm back in London now, still weary but full of smiles, despite frustrations many of us experienced. More soon. Much more.