It’s 11am I am on the 6th Floor of The Southbank centre at a presentation for the members
of the Southbank to launch the London Literature Festival. The vista of London by morning pours into the room flooding us with light and sky. Martin Colthorpe the senior programmer introduces the festival proper, outlining five key events that adeptly show
the breadth and depth of the festival. And then I was introduced.
This was a prime opportunity to introduce myself to the members as artist in residence at the South Bank. I grasped the opportunity to share the relationship of artist and arts centre; to say that the arts centre should be in the heart of the artist and the artist should be in the heart of the arts centre and to say that this is central to the vision of The Artistic Director Jude Kelly. This could not happen without trust from both artist and arts centre, trust in the creative process.
My presence here, as artist in residence, is to inspire and be inspired, to create and be created. I delivered my thesis and embodied it in two poems, one at the start of the talk (Gold From The Stone) and one at the end (Rabbi Hattenstone’s contribution to The Queens Speech). More than three people came up to me after the talk (of thirty) and said they were not expecting to be in tears at 11am in the morning, but they were. It was a
vital event and once again confirmed my reasons for doing what I do.
I then took Karen McCarthy and Malika Booker to the artist in residence office where we talked of literature and the beauty of residency and art. We were all in buoyant and positive mood. These two women are loved here at the Southbank as they quietly but confidently made the poetry library (also on the sixth floor) their home. It is where they wrote and discussed their writing, developing critical voice. If the Southbank centre is for the people by the people then they are it.
Strange, I hadn’t seen them for a while. The reason revealed itself. Karen was physically threatened by a man who was pretending to ask for directions, pretending to be a student, while she was sat writing on her computer. “He’s trying to steal your phone” shouted another woman who was sat nearby “he won’t leave me” shouted Karen “No No” the man protested “I ask direction” in a clearly pretend accent. A woman’s feeling of safety at The Southbank centre is a must and is mostly true. But this was broad daylight and my version of the tale is shorter than the actual event. I must talk to someone abut this. These two women need a lot of Southbank love to get them back in. We wave goodbye by the river and I bike myself back home.