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)

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’s just another brick in the wall

brick work

Hola. Hope you are well.

About this time last year I started doing some pointing at my mum’s house, well a year later I’m back there continuing the job. I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me think I should do pointing. Maybe it will become a family tradition, something to rival Christmas. Just to clarify, when I say I’m pointing, I mean doing brick work and not just being really observant.

And before you ask, I’m not doing this because I’ve been inspired by David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ which I’ve got to say is a ridiculous idea. For those that are unsure what the Big Society is, (which probably includes politicians) David Cameron wants people to take control of their community by volunteering in different areas. One example given, is for locals to take over the running of their pub. Which seems like a very sensible idea because if your local landlord/lady can’t make the pub work despite having years of experience in the licensing industry, you and your mates are bound to make a success of it.

Allied with the cuts that are on the way, it will mean we are going to be removing qualified people and replacing them with well-meaning volunteers. It’s like Man Utd replacing Wayne Rooney with the 65 yr old who currently works at B&Q or ‘street walkers’ being replaced by the ladies from the local bridge society. So with this spirit of people doing jobs that they are unqualified to do, next week David Cameron will be doing this blog and Nick Clegg will be running the country.

Another ‘politician’ making the news last week was the BNP’s Nick Griffin, who was invited to the Queen’s Garden party along with others, in his capacity as a MEP. He then got uninvited, the official reason given, was that he was using the event to promote his political views and this wasn’t the arena for such a thing. However I think, the Queen thought, ‘I don’t want to be pictured with a man prone to coming out with racist remarks’. Let me clarify this, I imagine having had to go on many foreign trips with Prince Philip, she didn’t want to be pictured with another man who may come out with racist remarks.

Onto lighter stuff. I was flicking through the Royal Exchange listings brochure (I’ve changed). I was happily flicking through looking at all the different events and then what should I see but this. It was for an event called Speakeasy. For those who don’t know, I’m a member of this collective (I’m far right in the pic) and yet I had no idea about this event. Let me know if anything like this has happened to you. Have you ever found something out about yourself that unbeknown to you was actually public knowledge? (Feel free to use the comments button to let us know, cheers)

And Finally…. I ended up watching 3 films over the weekend, ‘Changing Lanes’,‘Catch me if you can’ and ‘Up in the air’. The first two I’d seen before, which does seem a little bit like a waste of my time but when you’re sat on the sofa and there’s much else on, what can you do. ‘Catch me if you can’ follows Leonardo Dicaprio’s character who is a con man (con boy). Watching it did make me want to become a con man. If anyone from any law enforcement agency is reading this, I’m not actually going to pursue this an option. And ‘Up in the Air’ with George Clooney is a good couple movie, because it’s slush enough for the chicks but not too unbearable for us blokes. For any more film advice, do not hesitate to ask. Cheers.

                                                           Til next week, stay safe!
(original post 26/7/10)