A Mill To One.

IMG_4911It’s early afternoon.  I’m in HMP  Hindley.  I’m reading poems for young prisoners.  I make them laugh.  They deserve to laugh. But it’s not just laughter.  I begin the reading with a poem called Invisible Kisses. I was going to read an angry poem about a social worker but I switched. I switched because it was too obvious. They deserve to hear about love.  This event’s for RISE –  Reading In Secure Environments.  Afterwards I receive a text. Margaret Thatcher died. She  killed off the mills and mines in this area. I was here. I remember. (Pic to right  taken inside Trencherfield Mill)

It’s night time now aTrencherfieldMill-4nd I’m in  Trencherfield mill (Pic to left) next to The Orwell at Wigan Pier. It’s a Mill converted into a theatre  and apartments. It’s the 10th Wigan Literary Festival. The name Orwell doesn’t go down well in these parts. Writers have a way of saying what’s “best left unsaid”.

There’s a certain poetry in showing my film Internal Flight tonight because the government was my legal parent. Margaret Thatcher was my other and Wigan  social services were  my dysfunctional family. So this is a twisted homecoming of sorts.  Unfortunately United are playing city and a third of the ticket buying audience are at the match.IMG_4926 There’s the twist.

It’s a strange and beautiful reading in the belly of the mill, in the heart of my home.   A small woman hobbles up to me as I enter. Her name’s Maureen.  She’s in her seventies. “I knew you when you were in Ashton in Makerfield” she says – I was there from a few months to 12 years old –  “you were a lovely boy”.  After the reading on stage and the film Internal Flight there’s a  question and answer session with the audience.  Maureen holds her hand up  “You just disappeared” She said.” None of us knew what they’d done to you or where you’d gone”. Nobody calls me form those days and never did.

IMG_4936 “And I just want to say” she said in her gentle Ashton accent “I’ve read about you in the papers over the years and I’ve asked about you and I just want to say I’m sorry”.

Afterwards I’m presented with a tin of Uncle Joes Mint Balls. They’re  a Wigan Delicacy.  A  woman called Suzana Allais made a drawing of me on stage. Back at The Malmaison Hotel  in Manchester the mint balls take pride of place fitting perfectly with the colour scheme of the room. .
Lemn Sissay illustration with border - Suzana Ceallais April 2013

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