Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What are we fighting for?

There are many legends about infamous Winston Churchill put downs. Most of them are, indeed, very witty (“Sir you are drunk,” “Madam, you are ugly but in the morning I will be sober,”, etc., etc.) and, more often than not, they reinforce my long held view that he was a drunk, misogynistic old bastard. Once I've got an opinion on someone I rarely change my mind but occasionally, just occasionally, I'll gain some new insight and a bit of respect. Recently, I gained some respect for the old bulldog for one of his more overlooked quips.

During the war, so the story goes, he was asked why he did not cut subsidy to the arts to aid the financial burden of the war effort. He responded “Then what are we fighting for?”

Indeed, what those soldiers, officers, civilians, politicians, citizens, etc. were fighting for was Britain. Make no mistake, Great Britain is not just some geopolitical entity, formed by some accidents of Roman Imperial collapse, mediaeval Royal lineage and the Ordnance Survey boundaries. Great Britain is a cultural entity. It's often forgotten about, because like all cultural entities it is constantly evolving, changing and absorbing other cultures. You can't always pin down exactly what British culture is. This fact is, for me at least, its most enduring beauty.

The Coalition Government (and I'll say Coalition, not Tories, because as far as I'm concerned the Lib Dems ought to be tarred with the same acrid brush) chooses to believe that British culture is in fact English culture, and that English culture consists of some castles, a few paintings and statues you ought to pay to look at and the cricket or the football. They bemoan the loss of our culture to the immigrants. They whine that the youths of today have no interest in their own country. Then they cut the arts because they say it's not as important as medicine, or the army, or policing, proving, once again, that they are missing the point.

Yet Mr Churchill seemed to get it just right. He, a Conservative Coalition-leader too, seemed to grasp what British culture means. If a nation's borders are its body, then its culture is its soul. A soul is a living thing; it's not just historical culture. Culture continues to thrive and expand and be participated in. Nowadays British culture consists not only of English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish culture; it has the benefit of Indian, Pakistani, Pan-European, East Asian, American influences, and more besides. It is our greatest national asset, something you cannot put a price on, something that people have died to preserve.

Cutting funding to the arts is a barbaric act. I can understand why people will sigh and say 'if we're cutting healthcare, we ought to cut the arts first' but I'd suggest they're looking at the debate through the wrong end of the telescope. It's not just about funding artists to keep them employed. Artists will always create art, whether they get paid or not; in this respect they're never going to be like doctors, soldiers, policemen. What matters is that money needs to go into the arts to keep it available to every single person in this country. It is not a luxury to engage with your own culture; it is a right. Museums, art galleries, theatres, books, cinemas, concert halls should all be free to attend, otherwise what's the point in being British? What does being British even mean if you've never seen a play by Shakespeare, or seen a film by Alfred Hitchcock, or read a book by Charles Dickens, or listened to Elgar, or read a poem by Robert Burns, or viewed a landscape by Turner?

Essentially, every one of us has the right to engage with our culture, irrespective of how much money we have. At the end of the day, I'm fighting to maintain a particle, an atom, a minuscule droplet of public spending, the vast rewards of which are not just monetary; they enrich our very souls.

Isn't that worth fighting for?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Lorca is Dead

Lorca is Dead: or a brief history of Surrealism premieres at the York Theatre Royal, from the 5th to the 8th of May 2010.

It is my new play, produced by Belt Up Theatre, and I would love you to come and see it.

You can even get involved! Come along in the day and from 5pm you can take part in Surrealist experiments that will directly affect the play itself. It's all very exciting and you can be part of it!

All you need to do is buy a ticket and turn up.

For more information, go here:

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

An Apology

As any lawyer or politician will tell you, an apology is an admission of guilt. So here it is; an apology. This is my admission of guilt. I'm guilty. I'm a terrible liar. A rotten scoundrel bent on pulling the dreaded, murky, sodden wool of deceit over your little eyes. It was so easy and yet I feel so bad.

I promised you I would write on here more. I didn't. I'm a fraud. I can't help it. I'm busy and have nothing worthwhile to say that you can't find out anyway. But that's no excuse, is it? It hardly removes the agonising, gnawing feeling that I have told whopping great heartless fibs to the world for all to see.

The fact of the matter is: I can't write on here more. I'm too lazy. And stubborn. But mostly lazy. So I'm afraid I can't promise anything this time. Except I'll try not to lie to you again. Unless I have to. But if I do because I have to it will be to protect you from something with my love; the suffocating love of an overcompensating parent. You are my little kittens and I'll protect you. And if the best way to protect you little kittens is to wrap you in a bin bag and throw you in the river with a brick, then so be it. I'll do whatever it takes!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A Story (With Words)

Being faced with a keyboard is one of the most terrifying and most exciting points in my day. You look at it: its potential, its words, its indifferent jumble of letters, its arbitrary arrangement, see how your fingers fit across it, spanning in one hand half the English language. And it looks at you; cold, indifferent, a sneer. What is one to do when faced with such a belligerent challenge? Write? I daren’t.

Yet the need to tame this terrible beast is great. Words must be forged. It can be futile for all I care – an impotent and thoroughly pointless exercise. This. Stabbing at keys to string the words together just to know that I cannot be bested by a set of plastic squares emblazoned with a humourless font. Nor can its stalwart ally, the blank word document, sway me either. Both will perish beneath my nimble stubby fingers as I regurgitate words from my vocabulary in a mechanical, automatic flurry of linguistic vomit.

Then disaster strikes. Inspiration evaporates like a bead of sweat in the desert. My vocabulary dwindles to less and less words. Have I used them all already? Suddenly I’m groping for a synonym, unable to catch my breath, and any attempt at looking up alternatives in Word yields only antonyms and a bitter remorse. Words cease.

So, is it finished? Was there more? Or is that all there is? If there are no more words, there are no more words. But is that completion? That depends on one’s outlook, I suppose. Is the glass half empty or half full; half-complete or half-incomplete. Sense leaves entirely now in this void where words shouldn’t be and now are. Is this part of the former, or an addendum? Should it be a footnote? The fact that it isn’t tells us something. So, the thing could not have been complete because this commentary was required. Or is this as fundamental as the original treatise? More so? Perhaps. Perhaps it is this, with which we are now engaged, that was the real meat and drink of the exercise. The rest merely foreplay to titillate one’s grammar… I can not say at this juncture. Maybe there will be no other juncture to do so. And we shall never know. Unless we were to look back upon where we have come. To read back. As dangerous as starting in the first place. Don’t you think?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Return of the Native

It has been quite a while since I last posted on here and maybe I've been taking it all too lightly. Lately, I have been reading numerous blogs and, as we all know, it's something that if you take seriously enough reaps innumerate rewards. So here's a commitment: to write on here more.

Naturally, a lot of it will end up being pretty mundane, given that nothing much ever happens. I mean, in the grand scheme of things. Obviously, if aliens invade then fair enough but lots of more experienced bloggers will probably blog about it first. And then the world will end.

Anyway, with the return to the blog comes the return from Edinburgh. A successful month for Belt Up all told. We garnered some very nice reviews in some very important publications (Guardian, et al) and we even got a visit from Neil Gaiman. Having returned, we are now settling into our new York residence (that's a new residence in York, not a New York residence) and you can expect our involvement with the city to blossom in the coming year. I hope so, anyway.

I have started writing a new play and I'm even toying with the idea for a novel. I'm only slightly put off by how long it's been since I wrote any prose; I tried whilst in Edinburgh and found it to be bloody difficult. You have to spend so much time actually writing before anything happens. At least with a play by the time you've finished a sentence somebody has said something. Worth a shot, anyway.

No doubt I will keep you all posted on my progress.

Good night.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

To Crown My Thoughts With Acts

I gave myself a talking to the other day. I said "Dominic, you've finished your degree now."

"Yes," I said. I did alright too - got a 2.1 with minimal effort. It would have been a first if I'd been allowed to do straight english because, as it turns out, I got a first for the literature segment of my joint honours. The linguistics dragged it down.

"So," I said, "What are you going to do now?"

"Well there's Edinburgh, and then stuff after that will probably crop up."

"Yes but what else?"

'Oh shit,' I suddenly thought, 'He's absolutely right. There's still so much to get done!'

So, I made some resolutions, giving myself till next summer to have made some good progress on:

1. Learn a musical instrument (probably fiddle and get better at piano).

2. Brush up my French.

3. Get my Russian up to the standard of my French.

4. Travel somewhere cheap and interesting - the Faroe isles?

5. Secure some funding for writing, etc.

All reasonable things to aim for that better me as a human being. Can't say fairer than that really can you? To avoid procratination is the key, of course: 

"To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done."

Macbeth, Act IV sc i

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Lost Boys

Oh sweet, oh darling Peter

Your tender, youthful eyes

Are creasing beneath the orb

Where tears collect. The prize


You almost grasped but lost,

Let slip; who is to blame

For the bitter salt-sting now?

All your laurels, all your fame


They have forgot, or ignored

Or failed to see. They care

Only for youth, not monuments

Of your age. Not fair. Not fair


But true. Never Never-Never Land

Any more. Just your dusty toys

They now ignore; your lost Lost Boys.