Friday, 27 July 2012

Jump up!

So, today, I was in London for my uncle's funeral. Up until the last minute, I wasn't sure if I was going, or how I'd get there, but looking at the hotspots expected on the roads, last night I decided to take public transport. It was one of those last minute choices that sometimes create unexpected opportunities. Naturally enough, signs of the Olympics were everywhere, bringing with them the pleasure/pain that I've been experiencing for the last six months.  I'm passionate about athletics and I love the sport, but I've been increasingly downhearted by all the rubbish accompanying the games, too much security, too many awful sponsors, suppression of free speech. On the up side in London, it was good to see cheery volunteer Olympics ambassadors, pointing tourists in the right direction, making me feel glad to be a Londoner by birth. On the downside, a woman wearing an Atos badge, presumably on her way to Olympics HQ. "Bloody Atos,"I growled inwardly, as I headed to the tube, where I made another last minute decision which would change my day

Alerted by my sister that a train to Romford would be quicker than going to Hornchurch by tube, I decided to head to Liverpool Street. I had my laptop with me, and as I got on the train, I found myself opening up the Atos Monologues instead of the piece I was working on. Next time I looked up, we were at Stratford, and blow me, there was the Olympic Stadium to my left. Perhaps I was being sent a message. I looked down at my laptop, I looked up at the train. Perhaps I should do an impromptu reading? Trouble is, I'm a writer, not an actor, I wasn't  sure I could do justice to Karen and Kate, and all the other fabulous people who wrote to us. The train moved off, the moment passed, and I headed to the funeral.

But the thought stayed with me throughout the service. I should go back that way and be my very own flash mob. As I sat in Church listening to first my brother, and then my cousin talk about Uncle Andrew: a little bit bohemian, a little bit of a wordsmith, a little bit of an actor, a little bit of a communist, I thought my action could also be a little bit of a tribute to him. On my return journey, I pulled out my laptop, opened up the Monologues and chose two short passages by Kate, and the sadly recently deceased  Karen Sherlock. The train came closer and closer to Stratford, and I began to sweat. I don't mind public speaking but addressing a carriage of strangers was something else. The train pulled into Stratford. Lots of people exited, but I still had an audience of 15 or so. The doors closed. It was now or never. I jumped up, said I hoped people wouldn't mind, talked a bit about Atos, and read the stories to the somewhat bemused carriage. I finished by telling them about Karen's untimely death and by urging them to watch Dispatches on Tuesday (8pm Channel 4) and sat down, legs shaking. Much to my relief, nothing happened, nobody objected, nobody called the police and I left the train at Liverpool Street, heading for home.

I was considering whether to repeat the experience on the Hammersmith and City Line, but I didn't need to. Shamefully on the first day of the Olympics that have cost this country £10 BILLION, a young man with disabilities was so broke, he was forced to board a train and politely beg from us. For the second time in an hour, I jumped up from my seat to applaud him, and followed up by telling the carriage that this is a disgrace. He told us that up until a tumour appeared on his leg he'd worked and paid taxes. The doctors had hoped to fix it so he'd turned down the opportunity to apply for benefits two years ago. And now he is too sick to work, he cannot get support from the State. IN London. IN 2012. ON the first day of the greatest show on earth.

I've no idea what people made of my speechifying, or of my companion on the Tube. But one thing I am clear about. Unless we all start jumping up and saying our bit, nothing will change, nothing.

Now my protest is done, I do feel able to sit back and enjoy the only bit of the games that is worthwhile...the best sports people in the world striving for excellence. I'm off on holidays tomorrow but I'm glad to say, DPAC will be doing a proper reading of The Atos Monologues at the Counter Olympics Network protest in East London. We writers of the Monologues won't be there to see it, but it's great to know the words will be getting out there. As my Uncle Andrew knew, there's nothing so powerful.

(A Personal Post from one of the Collective)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

First Acts

The most exciting thing about writing a play is when people start preparing to put it on.

We are delighted to announce the premiere of The Atos Monologues will take on the 28th July. Our friends in Disabled People Against Cuts and Our Olympics have organised a reading to take place as part of the Counter Olympic Network demonstrations in East London. We hope that lots of you will be able to get along. If you can't  we hope to have a link on this blog to livestream on the day.

We can also announce that Act Up, a small theatre company in Newham are well into rehearsals of Atos Stories. We'll keep you posted on progress

We're in conversation with people in Oxford and hope to have some news soon.

This is just the beginning, we'd love to hear from more of you...So any thespians please do get in touch

We are dedicating both plays to the memory of Karen Sherlock, disability campaigner and victim of the inhumanity of the work capability assessment system.