Mini Workshop: Writing Poems

As promised, a few days ago, this is my poetry blog with a slant on facilitating communication aid users to explore writing poems. Unlike writing stories you don’t have to create a character, if you don’t want to, but if you want to you can use the dialogue in the poetry for some characters if you wish.
First let’s do a clean. A clean is when you write for 5-10 minutes about anything and everything that is in your mind. Just dump your mind on paper. For communication aid users you might want a bit longer than that. I would advise somewhere around 15 minutes for eye gaze and communication aid users to off load as many words as possible. Then have a break, especially when you’re using eye gaze.
Here’s my example –
break bread. peach. hungry. drink. milkshake. chocolate strawberry. banana. apple crumble. rocks. stones. melt. hot cold chill ice. white. ghost. emergency. emery. magazine. paper. news . stories. events. places. space. moon sun. stars. gold diamond silver bronze. medal money. cash slash. splash. out swim physical. run. wheel propel. drive. car van. so on. now it is break. chill out.
Take a break now, Dave, and come back and read me.
Hello, welcome back. Did you enjoy your break?
When you come back after getting your tea, coffee or hot chocolate, pick a word out of your offload, the word that stands out most to you. Start to explore this word. Let it take you on a journey. Let that word trigger memories, dreams and sentences. Let yourself go on a journey with the starting point being that word, and write a paragraph from that word.
My word is chill. I have picked that word because it stood out to me. Just start writing and exploring that word. Here’s my example –

chill out. there is no need to trill every time. news is breaking all the time. but just chill. everything is fine. what about what about what about. well death is devastating. we will cry for them. they will stop this murder. it is dangerous but I know we will be safe at home. doesn’t your friend Fred have it. yes but they will be alright. they are strong. don’t read now well only once a day. it is time to shut up and go to another world. some how I feel more connected than ever. messages doesn’t stop. business is as perfect as it will be. it is time to chill. stay safe. follow the government and the world. you do you at home. family time will will this war for us. but just wash hands and don’t do unnecessary stress. just be you on a winters day. I know the sun is shining and coming stronger. don’t go out. open windows and doors. still have walks. only do what we need. the levels of life don’t need to confuse us. they are all gone now. just walk. do something to keep busy. read write do a puzzle. work from home. God I can actually see blue sky . I can’t smell smog. is this a way of life that is friendlier? will it stay. just chill and we will defeat it.

You should now have a monologue straight from your beautiful and delightful mind. You can leave it there if you want. Especially if this is for a monologue in a play, but if you want to you can rework it and rewrite it, and turn it into a poem. How to do that is write it again with the last sentence as the first sentence and see what you create in between.
Here’s my example –
just chill and we will defeat it. the news will chill us with the latest about this murder. we will cry about the lives lost. we can be heroes to the doctors. they will be heroes to us. how? just chill. read a book. relaxed. work in your pyjamas. video call and talk. message. you will be isolated but we don’t need to loose connections. play words with friends with me. like we do with grandpa and ma. keep busy. loo rolls we have plenty to go around. stop panic attacks. there is enough. food. buy what you need. sharing is the stars that you can light up smiles. be kind. just chill. we can defeat it. those are the weapons that we need. just chill and we will defeat it.
 
Now rewrite it again but rework a snappy line in every few lines. You could aim to repeat that line every four or five lines, but it’s up to you. It could be every other line if you like, but for my poem I went for four/five. There’s no reason why it should be, my natural beat was just that. Always go with your natural flow whilst writing, even if you just write I am writing I am writing when you can’t think of anything.
When you’re happy with it, go back and tidy it up, look at the capital letters and punctuation, line breaks and all the stuff that doesn’t matter while you’re being creative, or you could even ask someone to do it for you.
Here’s my example –
Just chill. We will defeat it.
The murder and the latest news is worth crying about. This is a virus, an unexpected force. We can all be heroes to our heroes. We can save each other. Just chill.
Play words with friends. Talk with your grandma and grandpa. Read a book. Even write a poem, play or your own book. Be connected. You’re not really isolated. Just a click or a tap. Just chill.
There’s plenty to go around. Panic buying is the enemy that could lose us this fight. So don’t fight. Don’t fight. Just chill.
Family nights. Even video call people across the world. Send smiles, jokes and laugh. Play films and games. Even a spot of dancing. Just chill.
Just chill. We will defeat it.
 
Do you see the difference? If you rework and rewrite it you can turn it into something else. Just to recap – pour out, pick a word, let the word be your beginning, then write it, rewrite it, rework it, and you have a poem.
So there’s your poetry tool bag. Get writing. Yes you will cut some great lines, but sometimes a great line isn’t the punch your poem needs.
Join me on this blog next week for more creative tips. Even comment what you want my next blog to be. Stay safe. Just chill.
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Mini Workshop: Writing Stories

In this mini workshop today I will be writing about how to create characters for writing. Now when you are writing, if you just write poetry, you can get caught up in the character of you, which is fantastic and helpful, sometimes, but not always. So to externalise that we can make a character to write about and get inside another person’s head so that we can love or kill who ever we like and not go to jail for killing someone.  Or on more positive note fall in love with someone or something, and tell people about events.
The steps are these –
1) Draw, or if you can’t draw write, a series of characteristics. So for example this is Charlie Smith who has blonde hair and green eyes. Charlie likes fish and chips, salad and wears a baseball cap that says Bournemouth on it.
These are the little things that describe who we all are, but try to avoid using yours for this exercise and get out of your physical being. Only breathe into your head and mind. I know that sounds very arty farty but however you’re writing, let your mind be in control in a way that your physical being allows it to. Relaxed and get ready to write.
2) Think of a place that your character might be. This could be anywhere. Do the same as step 1 for the place. Draw or write the main points that make the place what it is. Add colour, shapes, objects, maybe think about the weather too.
3) Start writing with that place and character in mind. Start writing your story, or play. It doesn’t have to follow any rules, it can be whatever you want it to be, but just start.
If you are at home with a young eye gaze or communication aid user this can easily be turned into an exercise for them, by facilitating them to build a character. Hopefully they will feel motivated to just start writing, but if they don’t you can encourage them to write by asking them what their character would say or do. Most writing is a structure of call and response. So if you get them them responding to your prompts, they will hopefully naturally call back. You could even write your own along with them.
Those are my top tips for people who want to start writing more than just poetry, but I will also write a blog about writing poetry next. Let me know how you get on, or if you have any writing tips of your own.
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Disability Narratives in Film

I recently shared a blog about my opinion of the disabled narrative in TV. Now it’s time for film narrative.

‘The Upside’, starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, follows a disabled gentleman who is quadriplegic in New York. He hires Dell a paroled convict who is trying to get his life on track. Dell joins his care team with forced agreement. The rich white man, okay disabled but, a well-off white man is helping out a poor black man. Okay, it is a beautiful, and true, story told with a lot of comedy that makes you smile, and the disabled person doesn’t die in the end, which is a win for a film about a disabled person, but they really played up to stereotypes. A rich disabled person employs a poor black uneducated man and they help each other be happy. It was a great film, but I also wanted to vomit after watching it. It was excellently done though and, on the face of it, some improvement has obviously happened in terms of the disabled narrative in films, meaning that the disabled person doesn’t die at the end yay! This is a film that’s just as uneasy as the title, but with some actually delightful moments.

‘The Sessions’ is a film from 2012, so it came out during the last decade of when I was growing up and, things were very different then; in some ways more normal than we have it today. Anyway John Hawkes plays Mark, a disabled man who needs an iron lung to breathe. He is a poet and a disabled professional, probably based on Steven Hawkins, but in the creative and social world not the science world. It was a bit cheesy, but most of these kinds of films are so I’ll let them off on that one. Mark falls in love with his carer, which isn’t as common as these films make it seem. Okay, having a carer can be a very special relationship but you don’t tend to fall in love with them. This film has two cases of that narrative. His young pretty female carer at the start, and the nurse/counsellor at the end. My eyes are rolling. In-between those two relationships, he also has a sex therapist, and they fall in love as well. It is a good film. It breaks down the barriers in terms of sex and disability and I really appreciate it for that. Unfortunately he dies at the end. Why do they feel the need to show disabled people dying at the end of films? This film is nothing to do with death. Just because a character is disabled doesn’t mean they have to die. If you compare all of these films about disabled people, most of them die in the end. Imagine if they did that in most films, for no good reason. Like, Love Actually is a good film that’s very popular but would people like it as much if Hugh Grant randomly died at the end for no reason?
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‘Breathe’ is another one of these films. Andrew Garfield plays Robbin Cavendish, a man who gets polio as a young man and says ‘I don’t want to just survive, I want to truly live in a big way’. He does live as an inspiration for all. One thing I liked about this film is it was an incredible insight into the equipment that enhances the lives of the disabled. Wheelchairs, ventilators, and all that equipment is always improving. It might be thanks to the needs of disabled people in the old days, that our equipment is used to save your life. So, you’re welcome. Now I know why disabled people get called super human. Another completely vomit-worthy, stereotypical film about a disabled person, but it had some good moments.

Basically, the film industry is miles behind the improvement of disabled narratives on TV, but that’s not really different to any other diversity issue. The film industry has also made very little improvement in the case of disabled people being employed to play disabled roles. I think it’s very distasteful, and disrespectful, to all of the working actors with disabilities who would understand and play the parts just as well, if not better. There are plenty of them looking for work. So shame on the casting producers who chose to cast these actors instead – Eddie Redmayne, Sam Claflin, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston, and the list goes on… I just hope we see more of an improvement in the future, to reflect the world we actually live in.

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How to blog in a blog about blogging with a blog inside it

Step one: think of something that you want to chat about. It can be anything. Box-sets, politics, eating pizza, absolutely anything that you’re passionate about.
Step two: answer these questions –
What is the subject? What is the problem?
How does this problem relate to the wider world, to life?
Why are you emotionally connected to the issue?
What would you like to see happen?
How could life be easier, better, more interesting, or fix the problem?
Step three: add your opinions on the subject.
Another thing that you could do is think about your day and relate it to your day. So let’s take the crisis at the moment as an example. Some disabled people can’t self isolate. We need 24/7 care, crisis or no crisis. How can we solve that problem or adapt the way we live within these circumstances?
Wash your hands staff, and get me up as normal. I still have to cough, sneeze, pee and poo. We still have to deal with all that. Wash your hands again. It’s feeding and drinking time. I know it’s messy but no more than normal. Body contact. Well you still have to help me transfer and if you don’t you’re sacked, because I don’t want to die here smelling of pigs and not the good kind as in bacon and sausages. I would prefer those for breakfast along with champagne. Shower time. I’m sorry but you’re going to have to touch me for this to properly wash me, but use a flannel. It’s much less weird. Now unfortunately I need my teeth brushed. Sorry you have to look in my mouth and clean it. Sorry about the germs. Wash your hands. Now you can finally go away, but I will need you for lunch, dinner and any other food and drink time. I need a wee, sorry but I do. More touching involved, and not just foot shaking.
Blogging is usually talking about a subject and how it should change. That’s my approach to blogging, and these have been my top tips to get you started. Remember, blogging is a form of journalism but it falls on the side of opinion rather than fact. So give the world a voice it’s never heard before – yours.
Blogging Concept. Multicolor on White Brickwall.

Dear performing arts community…

Dear performing arts community,
We have a crisis in the world and it will affect the performing arts and theatre sector. A lot of vulnerable people are self isolating. Public events are banned for the foreseeable future. The theatre sector is at great risk.
Does it have to be? The answer is no. The questions are these.
How can we produce a strong online presence and bring people together whilst being isolated?
How can we develop our workshops to be online to people who are in isolation?
Do we need to throw away years of work this year or can we keep the ideas and transfer them into online content?
We should use this time to create as much as we can.
Bring people together over the internet, and use the technology that we have to bring the performance arts sector into the 2020’s.
Develop more training programmes to be online.
Bring the chat rooms into our core and keep collaboration up.
People will need art and culture more than ever so don’t stop the creation.
Change the creation to another kind of creation.
PARAORCHESTRA+COLSTON+HALL+JUNE+2016-15
Performing for Extraordinary Bodies

Disability Narratives in TV

What does the disabled narrative look like in TV over the last couple of years? Generally I think there has been mostly improvement, definitely over the last 3 and a bit years.
Let’s start with ‘Special’ on Netflix. ‘Special’ is a show about a disabled young adult, written and played by Ryan O’Connell, who I don’t want to say struggles, but I have to. He struggles with his disability and he is a gay man as well. and the character has ableism too. It’s an awkward watch, I admit that, but it’s also a really real and relatable story of the journey of a disabled person trying to live his life. Overall, I can see why people have difficulty with it. It’s not an easy watch, but it is a realistic comedy drama of a disabled person and his life. So for that, I have no problem with it. I have seen and felt worse watching other TV shows like ‘Little Britain’. Matt Lucas plays a wheelchair user who says ‘I want that one’, an impression that a whole generation ended up repeating as a joke, then seeing him getting up and running about behind his carer’s back is magic. It’s funny, but it’s not a good representation of disability and it doesn’t give the audience a great insight into that kind of life. I mean, Matt and David you are great and it was okay 10 years ago but, I would choose ‘Special’ any day over ‘Little Britain’.
I have much more of a problem with ‘Sex Education’ on Netflix. The show as a whole is fantastic, and I love it, but in the second season they introduce a wheelchair user, Isaac, played by George Robinson. Fantastic really, a disabled person playing a disabled character, yay well done, finally some much-needed improvement. However, I still have a but. The character is perfectly cheeky, and a swine, which is perfectly fine to show but it still has connotations of disabled people being bad and from hell. I blame James Bond for this narrative of disabled people because all James bond villains seem to look disabled and slightly screwed up. That’s the narrative I get from Isaac in ‘Sex Education’ – that disabled people are evil, and possibly from hell too. I am not saying that disabled people can’t be dicks because they can, but do all these narratives have to be so extreme? You’re either special or from hell, as if the devil owns our souls.
Let me go on to ‘Speechless’, a show about another disabled person and the main character. Micah Fowler plays JJ, a wheelchair and communication aid user. He is disabled in real life but slightly crippling up more for the show. In real life he can talk a bit, but not to the point that I would be angry about him playing this role. So I don’t feel it is wrong or that he stole the part from a more disabled person. We can get a little too fussy about that, and we could end up losing the general argument that disabled people should be playing disabled characters. It’s a slightly different subject but, if we go down that path, disabled people will never play James Bond or Doctor Who or Emma or Mary Poppins. Anyway, back to ‘Speechless’. It’s perfect.  I would say it’s the only TV series that shows us the social model of disability. It looks at life and doesn’t say this is a poor disabled person, pity him, give him sympathy, which ‘Special’ still does to a degree. ‘Speechless’ is actually what it’s like being disabled in my experience, so for that I love it.
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Supporting Future Artists & Producers @ The Roundhouse, London

I was recently asked to be on a panel alongside other established artists and producers to answer questions in a workshop that supported future artists and producers at the Roundhouse in London… I thought it was worth sharing the answers I gave to their structured questions with the intention of supporting other people interested in this industry… Let me know what you think!
1. How do you lay the groundwork for your artists to go to the next level?
For me the best way is to give away power and empower. Because if you don’t empower other people to have a voice then the sector will never change. For me Graeae does that very well with the disabled and deaf community. If you don’t empower artists and new voices then no emerging artists young or old will come forward.

2. An example of when a producers support has been fundamental to either you or your work. I have a long relationship with Diverse City and they are great to work for. Without them or Graeae I wouldn’t be the artist I am today, without the opportunities and challenges they have both given me. Even when I had a down moment I would be invited to do a workshop by Graeae or Diverse City and it would remind me why I love the arts again.

3. What is your thought process when you’re working with an artist on a current project but also their next steps?

I try to challenge every artist even the experienced ones because yes I am an emerging artist but experienced artists and older people don’t know everything. They are fantastic and I love all the people who I have worked with, okay that’s a lie, but I try to respect them and secretly mentor them.

4. What’s between emerging and established, and do your navigate this?
Occasionally I don’t know if a producer realises how long I’ve been doing this, the knowledge and experience I already have, or if they think I’m brand new to it. That’s what pisses me off about being an emerging artist. Producers don’t seem to think about the past of an emerging artist, or the people you’ve already been affecting with your work. They assume to know where you are on this path. They assume to know you’re at the beginning or midway along the path, when you might already be further along, making a bigger social impact than they expect you to make. It’s like I know how to make a cake, but I’m not sure how to make pancakes. You’re trying to help me make a cake, which is cool I love doing it but I don’t need help with that. The next request you have is pancakes. I am more worried about that, but you’re still trying to help me make a cake. Do you know what I mean?
5. What are the barriers to making work and sustaining a career as an artist?
The barriers I face are usually access to work, people not understanding what a freelancer is, people not understanding how much time I need compared to the time it takes other people to do the same task, working out my morals and how far I’m willing to bend them, and managing my mental health and whether something is too much or not enough. I think the arts sector is very tough to work out, but I often say why not try anyway, and see if I can do it. Getting your first no in any context is both you saying no and something or someone saying no to you, it’s not personal, and no is not never. It’s a no at this time. It’s all about confidence, and as long as you are confident in knowing what works for you then you can do anything you want within reason.
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