If you want to get on, go see Elvis

big jim white

Hola. Hope you are well.

I had a relatively busy week. It started on Tues, when I was in a prison doing a writing workshop. I’ve been in this prison for the previous 3 weeks and I had no trouble getting to there. Last week however the bus driver thought it would be a good idea to drive past the bus stop without giving anyone a chance to get on the bus. It might be a novel concept for some bus drivers but bus stops are for stopping at, the clue is in the name. As the next scheduled  bus didn’t turn up, I ended up having to get a taxi at my own expense. I think I will be writing a strongly worded letter to the bus company. Watch this space!

On Weds it was my birthday, it was my kind of birthday as I didn’t really do much. Although, I did take back the stand up banners I had, back to the writing organisation (Commonword) that they belonged to. These were the stand up banners that I didn’t want to carry during the Labour Party Conference, for fear of getting tasered.

On Thurs, I was in a college inspiring young minds, it’s just one of the things I do. Whilst there I was asked how I got this job, and the truth is I met a lecturer from this college at Big Jim White, an Elvis tribute act’s gig. Which just goes to show, you can have a fancy website or print out as many flyers as you want but if you want to get work in this business, go to an Elvis tribute night.

On Thurs evening I was compering a Comedy Poetry Slam as part of the Manchester Literature Festival. This turned out to be a good event, with an up for it audience. The following night I was compering another event Speakeasy, this time at the Band on the Wall. One of the things you have to do as the compere is stick around til after all the acts have performed. I was hoping everything would be wrapped up by 12:30, so I could nip off before the end of the night, and get some sleep before I get up just after 6am to go and do the radio show. At 2:15, I was on stage doing my final link. I didn’t get back home til around 3:30, bummer! I still got up and sounded quite perky for the radio.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, it was my birthday on Weds, and of course it was also the day of the government’s spending review. But I don’t want to focus on that, as it is way too depressing. I did however learn that Shayne Ward’s mum Philomena also shares her birthday with me. She has to be the least famous,  famous person who shares my birthday. Let’s face it Shayne Ward is desperately clinging on to fame, so his mum must merely be a speck on the horizon of showbiz. (probably standing next to me). This made me think, who’s the least famous person you share your birthday with??? (feel free to contact me via the comments button).

And Finally… Earlier today (Mon) my mum had a chimney sweep working at her house. So by my calculations we’ve had 5 months of this Con-Dem government and we are already sending people up chimneys.*

Til Next Time, Stay Safe! 

* (in the spirit of fairness it was a man and he’s been in this line of work for years)

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It’s nice to see you again

saul williams

Hola. Hope you are well.

I had a busy week. I spent a lot of time in prison, so maybe I am the Phil Spector of Manchester Poetry (see last week’s post).

I was in a Young Offenders’ Institute on Thurs, where I met a lad I’d previously seen in a care unit a couple of years before. It’s a slightly weird situation to be in, because normally when you haven’t seen someone for a while your natural instinct is to say, “It’s nice to see you again” but you can’t really say that when that person has gone from one institution to another institution. I think there should be some kind of book that tells you how to behave in such a situation. Thinking about it, it might be quite a niche book. Feel free to let me know if you have any situations you need advice as to best handle it.

After the YOI, I did a session in an adult prison as part of their Black History Month celebrations. This proved to be quite challenging. Firstly there were meant to be 22 inmates, which is a lot anyway, but 28 turned up. Apparently some people tried to sneak in, who would have thought that? After a wait as the staff tried to work out how we had multiple numbers of certain individuals the group was whittled down to 22. Which although more manageable was still pretty intimidating.

Initially there was a small but vocal minority who expressed their dissatisfaction with the session. Their main annoyance seemed to stem from the fact that I wasn’t teaching them about Black History and that there was no Caribbean food, unlike last year. I can’t help thinking they were more upset about the lack of food.

So I’m stood in front of a room full of predominately hard looking black and mixed raced inmates (and 3 white guys) who seemed to be pissed off and had me as their target for their annoyance. To sum it up, it wasn’t going too well. At this point, I could do one of two things, I could carry on and show them that I was not affected or cry like a baby. Because I didn’t want to look like a pussy in front of a group of men, I continued with the session.

I addressed their concerns about it not being about Black History, but that this was a writing session and that as I am a writer and black, it qualifies as a Black History Event. I also allowed the group to write about Black History should they wish so. As the session went on, there was a definite shift in mood as I think they warmed to me and what I was trying to do. To the point that before I left, one of the guys stood up and thanked me for coming and working with them. The other guys in the group applauded at this point.

The whole experience, from start to finish felt like some kind of feel good film, I can almost see the blurb for the film. ‘One unknown comedian faces his biggest challenge yet, as he tries to appease a group of black inmates (and 3 white guys), who want dumplings, rice and peas not his brand of humour’. At Cinemas now.

Talking of prisons. Last week I spoke about how I was in a prison (in the North West) and got the inmates I met to write a line about home so that I could turn them into a poem. I did that and with a little tweaking from the librarian at the prison, Kim. Here is the completed poem.

On to other things that aren’t prison. I will be compering two gigs as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, this week. I am compering the Comedy Poetry Slam, on Thurs 21st Oct, at the Northern Pub, Tib St, Mcr City Centre. Show starts 8pm and is £3 in. For more info

The very next day Fri 22nd Oct, I will be compering a night of spokenword and music, called Speakeasy. This takes place at Band on the Wall, Swan St, City Centre Mcr. The Special guest all the way from America is Saul Williams. Doors 10pm. Price £8/5. For more info

And Finally…. It’s my Birthday this coming Weds, it’s also the spending review, which is where we find out how much the Con-Dems are going to cut the various public services and departments etc… We are led to believe that the budgets will be between 25%-40%. So in the spirit of this, if you were thinking of sending me any Birthday greetings, please cut them by 25-40%. Cheers.

Til next week, stay safe!

It wasn’t me

phil spector

Hola. Hope you are well.

Just to let you know I started this blog yday (Mon 11th) but due to time constraints and because I’m currently running this operation from my local library I never got round to finishing it.  Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

On last week’s blog I mentioned that I was ready to resume my battle with Cheryl Cole. Then a few days later it was splashed all over the papers that Cheryl had received death threats (see here). Just in case anyone from a law enforcement agency is reading this, I just want to ensure you that I had nothing to do with this.

The tell-tale signs that it had nothing to do with me, include the fact that the message was sent from a Blackberry, which is way too modern a piece of technology for me to have. I’m currently using a mobile that has already had two previous owners. Secondly the spelling is atrocious. This doesn’t initially discount me, as my spelling is poor but if I were to send a death threat to someone, I feel I would have the courtesy to make sure I ran it past the spell checker. For those of you  who are concerned about Cheryl’s welfare, fret no more as she is alive and well. It’s almost as if this death threat was all a publicity stunt.

Something that doesn’t appear to be a publicity stunt is that Gamu does face a real threat of being deported back to Zimbabwe due to her mum’s student Visa having run out. It was reported in the Sunday Mirror that Gamu fears for her safety if she returns to Zimbabwe and she even said she may face the firing squad (see here). I don’t know how much truth is in this, but it does seem a harsh punishment for someone who’s only crime appears to have not been picked to sing in the live finals of X-Factor. However, I can’t help thinking that some producer somewhere is noting this down, so if in years to come, instead of  contestants on the X-Factor merely getting booted off the show, they get lined up and shot, we will know where the seeds for this idea came from. At least if this did happen you’d feel the tears would be for a just reason.

Anyway, onto other news. As I’m sure you were all aware it was National Poetry Day on Thurs (7th Oct). I was marked the occasion by going into a prison and travelling from wing to wing asking the inmates about home. Before I go on, I feel I should assure you I was booked to do this, it wasn’t some elaborate prank. But I can see how going into prison asking inmates what they think of home, may appear quite cruel, akin to going to a weight watchers event and asking the participants to talk about cream cakes. But in my defence, the theme of this year’s  National Poetry Day was ‘Home’, so I did have a legitimate reason for asking these questions.

The idea was for me to get all the inmates I met to write down on a strip of paper one sentence that summed up home and then they put that strip of paper in an envelope and at the end of the day I would turn their contributions into a poem. As it happened I met quite a lot of inmates and the vast majority were very co-operative, we did get the odd ‘majour pussy’ but that was always to be expected and to be fair maybe majour pussy does sum up home to him. Unfortunately I didn’t feel it was appropriate to the overall feel of the piece.

I eventually got round to piecing the poem together yesterday, that’s why I didn’t get round to completing this blog. I have to say I found the whole thing an interesting process. Initially when I saw all the strips of paper I did feel a little overwhelmed, thinking where should I start. It’s probably not surprising I felt this way as if you’ve seen me perform any of my poems you will know they are generally pretty short. One of my shortest poems consists of two female names and the word ‘whilst’.

But after my initial fears as to my ability to turn it into a poem, I got into it. I felt a little like a music producer, trying to take all the different parts and make one coherent piece. In many ways I could become the Manchester poetry equivalent of Phil Spector. If the poem gets the all clear, I may put a link of it on next week’s blog, I imagine you are all can’t wait.

And Finally… It’s my nephew’s 3rd birthday today, don’t feel you have to wish him Happy Birthday as he doesn’t read this blog (everyone’s a critic). I only mention it because I got him a card as is the way with these things, but it wasn’t as easy as you may think. He is mixed raced (person of dual heritage) and I’m sure I read somewhere that it is important to show children positive images of people similar to themselves. But the problem was, it’s not easy to find cards with mixed raced children on them, especially the card shops I frequent, so instead I got him a card with a bear driving a car. Because in no way is that going to confuse him more than a smiling white boy.

Til next week (Mon hopefully), stay safe.

Colour Blind

Sophie Amogbokpa

Hola. Hope you are well.

Just to let you know that I haven’t heard from ‘This Morning’ about paying my rent for a year. I can’t help thinking, no news is good news. This week they are giving away £30 000, so this time next week, I should have some good news (The answer to this week’s question is ABBA, should you be interested). Aswell as ‘This Morning’ not being in touch, I’ve not heard from the Queen or Duncan Bannatyne (see last week’s post) but ‘Her With One Permanent Job’  and I have found someone to rent our flat. It had more to do with the power of Gumtree than the efforts of our letting agent.

It did mean that ‘HWOPJ’ and I had to 2 days to move our things out of the flat and to do some intense cleaning before the flat inspection. Here’s a little tip, if you are cleaning with someone else and you have the choice to clean the blinds or not, DO NOT!!! Take your chances with anything else, because cleaning blinds are so time-consuming, as you have to clean each individual panel. I spent  about an hour and a half attempting to clean the blinds in the kitchen. My efforts were hindered because the grime and the steam from cooking over the years had mixed to form an almost impenetrable combination. It didn’t help that I had to clean them whilst leaning precariously over the sink.

At times I have to admit, I did lose the will to live. To gauge how long it took to clean the blinds, I did them in two stages, divided by a sit down fish and chips in a cafe. There can’t be that many things in life that have fish and chips as an interval.

When it came to the inspection, we passed with flying colours, apart from one thing. Can you guess what that was??? Yes the blinds in the kitchen. Bloody typical!!!

The only other thing to say about the move is that I had some stand up banners at the flat that belong to a writing organisation (Commonword) in Manchester City Centre. I did think about taking them back to the organisation as opposed to transporting them to my mum’s house but in the end I decided against this. Not only because of the time constraints, but when the banners are packed in their cases they look like they might be mini missile launchers. And with the Labour Party conference happening in M’cr, I didn’t want to be walking round with two suspicious unidentifiable items. It might be paranoia on my part but I didn’t want to end up tasered, because one thing that you could be sure of is that the tasers the police would fire on me, would definitely work. No faulty ones for this ‘unknown comedian’

Talking of the Labour Party conference, congratulations to Ed Miliband or Red ED as some newspapers have nicknamed him, largely you suspect because it rhymes. On ‘Question Time’ last week, an audience member asked the panel if the Tories will attack  Ed because he isn’t married to the mother of his child (and one about to drop) and because he is a Jewish Atheist. It did make me ask myself, can you be both Jewish and Atheist, aren’t they mutually exclusive terms, like clean living smackhead, a 4×4 driving ecologist or mature student. (feel free to add your own examples via the comments button).

And Finally… Those regular readers to this blog (HWOPJ, Simon et al) will know that in the past I’ve taken many opportunities to slag off Cheryl Cole. Well the battle resumes. Anyone who watched y’day’s  X-Factor will know what I’m talking about. Basically Cheryl put through two performers to the Live shows despite them breaking down and being unable to complete their songs during their audition pieces. This meant that more accomplished performers didn’t go through, including one of the favourites a girl named Gamu. There’s been a lot of speculation as to why Cheryl did this, but I think  Cheryl’s decision had nothing to do with ability but maybe Gamu reminded Cheryl of the toilet attendant she assaulted a few years ago (see pic at the top of the blog) . Who knows???

Til next week, stay safe!