A full run down of the past seven days.
A full run down of the past seven days.
Sunday 29th Jan 7pm The Orange Theatre in Richmond. Pouring rain. My GPS is busted. Crazy driving weather driving me crazy. Not a good look. Sold out. No costume, no music.No direction. Me, the stage, the script & the audience. The first word is “Dark”.Nearly 2 hours – a standing ovation. I’m moved and I’m driving home. 10.30pm. Arrive in Dalston. I start finishing a different script for tomorrows speech. Finish at 2am.
Monday 5am Hackney. Wake. Write and upload morning tweet. Uber to Euston Station. Travel to Manchester. Finish photos for power-point of speech on train journey.. Power. Point. Transfer photos and script toUSB. Arrive at BBC North Media City at 12. 45pm. pick up pass. 4th Floor. Hand over USB to techs. 1.30pm on stage. Three hundred people. All BBC staff. There by choice. Script printed. About to deliver speech. Many people I know. I am given the clicker from the techs. Silence. Deep breath.
The clicker doesn’t work. I look out at audience. The clicker doesn’t work. No photographs. A little part of me dies then rises. I read the speech. The event is a success in spite of the carefully selected slides. Though it was difficult to gauge.
Here’s what would have been the last photo of the speech. It was Sir Christopher Bland ex director General of The BBC, step father of my good friend Jamie Byng. He passed away within the week just gone. The picture was accompanied with a quote from a colleague which typified him and concludes the subject of my speech – Diversity. His colleague said this of him “He never supported anything when he hadn’t interrogated his own mind. But once he made it up he was resolute.”
I travel straight from BBC North to The Malmaison for 5pm. Change into running clothes and run.
Tuesday 6am I write and upload morning tweet then have a Malmaison breakfast with Alison Shedlock. She is Head of Hospitality and events at University of Manchester and heading firmly towards friend territory. We discuss “Lemn Sissay products” in the University merchandise field. it is The Inspire Range. There’s not been a range such as this before. Presently there is one product.
But there will be more. One of the products is a beautiful notebook with these words
At 10.30am Still at the Malmaison in Manchester – still Tuesday – I meet the incredible woman that is Sam Walker. Once the presenter for BBC Drive-time in Manchester she now does a podcast.Her series has been bought by Audible. So we do the interview. It is beautiful. She has done her research. We are both on the edge of tears. I’ve met her once before.
Interview over. Leave Manchester at 1pm for Sussex. Five hours door to door. I arrive in Wadhurst. I’m driven through Sussex mist to Ticehurst. Night falls. Arrive 6.15pm at place called The Bell. I check in to an astounding apartment room. It’s the one where the path leads on the right. It is called Between The Lines and the theme of the room is books.
At 6.30pm I am sat at the dinner table in The Bell with property developer Richard Upton and his family and friends plus Jacob, and Marina. Marina started The Forgiveness Project. Richard is a supporter. After the gorgeous meal and good conversation we walk upstairs to a beautiful room. There’s an hundred people in there already.
At 7.45pm Marina Jacob and I begin. I tell my story. Jacob tells his. Marina is the conductor. Jacob punched a man who died a week later. He was imprisoned for manslaughter. He is an inspiration. Read about him. There are tears and laughter from a genuinely gripped audience. Afterwards drinks and conversations….. By midnight I return to my room – Between The Lines – and sleep.
Wednesday 5am at The Bell . Outside my room is surrounded by weightless rain. It swirls. It’s water dust. It’s still dark. I Write a letter to The hotel to thank them. 7.45am check out. Breakfast. Train. Arrive London Bridge 10.30am. Realise I can’t go home to change so buy clothes. Uniqlo. Then to Euston and on a train to Manchester. Check in at Malmaison 5pm. Nice Room. Then straight away onto a train from Manchester to Bury Met Theatre. Arrive 6pm for an evening with Lemn Sissay. Check the Tech. Lights. Lectern. Sound. Lemn. It’s a poetry reading. It’s an hilarious gig. About seventy minutes on stage. Get home to the Malmaison for 11pm.
Thursday I wake at 5am and upload morning tweet and get the 6am train from Manchester to London. Arrive at 8.30am for a meeting at 9am in Soho. Therapy. Yeah you heard me. Then to Bread and Butter café in Dalston for 11am. I meet a facilitator to discuss The Christmas Dinner Weekender which I’ve organised for later this month. But I’m too tired. I get to my own bed early and watch daft tv on my own. Bliss.
Friday 5am write and upload morning tweet. 10am. I get some inspiring news : My play Something Dark is to go on the Syllabus. Due in no small part to Dr Deirdre Osborne of Goldsmiths. Oberon Books will be publishing Something Dark later this year. At 11am meet Deborah Frances White at Shoreditch House. in east London.
We are concocting plans together. Deborah is an extraordinary person. Two of her projects are Global Pillage and The Guilty Feminist. They attracted over one and an half million downloads in January. Serious business. Our meet finishes at 2pm. I cycle to Bread and Butter to spend the afternoon discussing The Christmas Dinner Weekender on 24th to 26th February. We have two extra ordinary facilitators for the weekend. The weekend will include representatives form all the christmas dinners. It will be held at an arts organisation called Metal in Southend. Educationalist and creativity genius Nick Corston posted a video of my good self at a head teachers conference that I hadn’t seen..
I was so displeased with my speech (at the time) that I offered half my fee back via Nick and I think he advised me not to. So a year after the event… Here it is.
Saturday 6am Write and upload morning tweet. 10am I travel from London to Manchester. Check in to The Malmaison. Again. Arrive 12.15pm. Drop bags. Don’t check in to room. Race across Manchester. Arrive exactly 1pm at AMC Cinema. Watch LION. Drained by the beauty of it. The closeness to my story. The love of the mother. I’m hurt by it too.
No family has ever wondered where I’ve been or when I’m coming home. I’ve never quite got over that. I know. You’d think I would’ve. But why would you think that? LION shows an adopting parent has the familial bond equal to any birth parent. I’m in pieces outside the cinema but I’m joyous too. There is light. So I start back across Manchester to the hotel and as I’m crossing Albert Square in front of the Town Hall I hear chanting and it gets louder and louder. Then like with the most perfect timing a Peoples March turns the corner from the street onto the square straight towards me. It’s. It’s beautiful. I was with them last week. The emotion of Lion pounces inside me and I am lifted by Manchester, its people and their singing.
I watch and sing and take photographs and walk gently away. I’m worried about the infiltration of these new movements. Worried about covert surveilance. We who have experienced this from the 1980’s in Manchester should be alerting the young. On the way back to the hotel I see an inspiring young woman and ask for a photograph with her placard.
Here’s the poem I wrote on becoming Chancellor. There is a tangential and tangible link to the sign above and I am proud of that.
I arrrive back to hotel. Meet my friend Yusra. She’s an amazing actor. Ofcourse we’re posing. It’s fun!
Then I Meet head of production company to talk about a project and ask her advice. Two friends arrive. They tell me they’ve been looking at really nice hotels. “That’s nice” I say – What a cool thing to do”. They tell me it’s for my birthday party. LION pounces. I still haven’t checked in and it’s 6pm. I wave goodbye and go to Contact Theatre. The play I am seeing is called I told my mum I was on an RE Trip. It is four women on stage. It is verbatum Theatre (partly) by 20 Stories High.
At the end of “I told my Mum I was Going on a R.E. Trip” I am in pieces. I have learned more about the subject in 90 minutes than I have in my whole life. To my shame. The stars include real women from Northern Ireland. The play must go to Belfast. Derry too.
It is the first thing I ask the artistic director Keith Saha. “Yes” he says. So please People of Northern Ireland. This play is fearless beautiful complex and empowering like you. Bring yourself and your friends. We need theatre more than ever. I am drained having experienced LION and this show. So I walk back to the hotel through the night at 10pm. Pick up some razor blades. Shower and shave. I shower and shave everyday but not at 10pm. There’s a reason.
Sunday 4.15am. Wake. Taxi arrives at Malmaison at 5.30am. I’m at BBC Breakfast studio for paper review. Within an hour of arriving I’ve chosen the stories and I’m on air. I got out stories like Noma Dumezeweni’s speaking out that Julian Fellowes could have black actors in the all white stage version of Downton Abbey. I featured Lena Dunham flagging up the danger of trolls on young women. The closure of Sure Start Centre’s around the country.
At 9am I’m back at Malmaison. I write and upload morning tweet. Meet friend, Jason, for breakfast. I’m writing this on the train back to London. 2pm on Sunday. That’s my seven day run down. It’s a long blog. Most of you won’t have read it to here and who can blame you. I write this in lieu of family. I’ve never had a family member wait for me to come back when I travel. Or feed me. None have missed me or tell me they wonder what I’ve been up to or congratulate or admonish me in my travels. I have a sister in Addis who tells me this is not true. It’s my new families prerogative to deny this. Its mine to say it.
If you see Lion you’ll know why I say these things. My story and that of the central character are similar. And yet different. I’ll end on this. When I went into care I wasn’t touched. This continued throughout my time in children’s homes. I can be incredibly close and distant at the same time. That’s my weakness. Closeness. But I do everything to fight the weakness. I am close to many people now. I think. That was my week. Thanks for reading.