Tuesday, 30 June 2009
After lunch I headed South to Manchester, where I'm attending the HE Academy annual conference. I did my PGCE in the city and, for four summers in the early nineties, ran the now defunct Manchester Youth Theatre's summer courses, alongside the benevolent, if occasionally inebriated, Geoff and Hazel Sykes. Geoff died in 1998 and the last time I was in the city was to speak at his memorial service. I learnt more in the few years I was in the North than I have before or since, but I also knew at the time that Geoff was the last of the old school of educationalists who worked with an unchecked mixture of terror and inspiration. His passion for theatre and for championing anybody who was prepared to graft knew no bounds, but woe betide you if you were lazy, pretentious or unreliable - unreconstructed it was, dignity in the work place it was not. The MYT did produce some top actors and directors though: Mike Leigh, Lesley Sharp, David Threfell and Lyndsey Marshall to name but a few.
So this afternoon, in temperatures and sunshine, that were at odds with my remembrance of the North West, it was exciting to reconnect with the city's changed centre. I found it incredibly nostalgic, but also inspiring to see the speed of redevelopment. There are familiar landmarks - the beautiful curve of library walk, the peace statue of a fat faced woman feeding pigeons next to the town hall, the plaque on the Free Trade Hall remembering the Peterloo massacre, the Chinese Arch, the eclectic emporium that is Afflecks Palace and the ever fabulous Cornerhouse ... but some things are no more. The anarchist bookshop off Piccadilly gardens has been swamped by posher shops, as has the football fanzine shop in St.Ann's, the city centre Odeon has disappeared and the iconic Hacienda, where all things seem to begin, is now a block of plush apartments.
Met up with Vixter this evening who's up working on Prima Donna, Rufus Wainwright's opera teching into the Palace as part of the Manchester Festival. We sat and chatted on the re lit canal by Deansgate station, an area that ten years ago represented the fringes of the 'safe' centre. You didn't come this way unless you were with somebody who knew the score. Chip butties, cheap pills and fights replaced by pear cider over ice, rocket salads and the neon glow of a city rediscovering it's commercial excellence.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Friday, 26 June 2009
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Cycled across Richmond Park for a Teaching Stand-Up Comedy seminar at Roehampton University, to talk about some of the work we did with The Comedy School last year. It was really interesting. The focus was on the transferable academic skills that Stand-Up brings, which included the proposition that structuring a routine, paying attention to the precision of language, rhythm and word choice feeds back into formal essay writing. It's a fascinating idea. Many speakers stressed the connection between the timing of a punchline for maximum effect and the ability to command syntax in formal assessment. An effective gag, like a persuasive argument, is succinct, clear and truthful.
Stand-Up is a growing subject in Unis and all of us present are converted to its academic validity. There are, however, some interesting debates to be had. One revolved around taste, with the consensus being that there should be no taboo subjects for students to explore - but equally the right to call the material... You're out of order and an offensive Nazi!!! ... should also be allowed. Say what you like, but don't just hide behind the laughter of the mob - be prepared to justify your decisions.
Back at St.Mary's the staff were all called to a Dignity in the Workplace workshop, which included the recruitment of confidential colleagues, to whom we can go to if we're the victims of bullying or harassment. A kind of neighbourhood watch. The problem with this is it's divisive and, however well meaning, encourages half truth, rumour and finger pointing. I hate cruel or mean behaviour, but any imposed institutional policy only provides a false sense of security to victims as well as criminalising irreverence and playful banter. Respect comes in many forms.
Ultimately if we can laugh at each other, the quality of our lives together is increased immeasurably. Stand-Up can teach us to look at our flaws, celebrate them publicly and through this cathartic process live a more humane existence. To be immune to offense allows us to move onto the front foot with our hopes, dreams and ambitions... and then there's the performance skills including creating an intensely sensitive awareness of your audience, its moods, stamina and energy. In every way it seems an excellent discipline for students to explore.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Friday, 5 June 2009
The last line of his resignation letter released last night reads - 'I am not seeking the leadership nor acting with anyone else. My actions are my own considered view and nothing more.' Sad as the whole sorry tragedy of Gordon's demise is, if Brother James has forsaken his door keeping duties then it's only a matter of time before the Knights come storming through the sanctuary once again.