I’ve shredded and shed-ed. I’ve bagged and boxed. I’ve folded, I’ve filed, and I have filled recycle bags with malignant gangs of documents which have followed me, grunting their disdain, in scruffy boxes on every corner of every street I have ever walked. Dramatic moi? I fought them, with a shredder, cause I am reclaiming the right to organise the past. A weight is lifting off my shoulders and into the bin. I haven’t thrown all the documents away . Don’t be daft. I’ve made a neat file for each year from 1967 to the present day. I’ve kept some press and letters and a treasured box of passes. They have a bright melancholy and a pre-covid poignancy.
As I sifted and shifted paper to shredder I read letters from the people I have worked with from 1985 to the present day. it became abundantly clear how much I have been supported and if the arts Council had not funded the arts centres around the UK where would I have performed? I thought it was all me. It wasn’t. If the Arts Council had not supported Bogle L’ouverture (my first real publishers) or Initiatives such as Caribbean Focus (1987?), or magazines like Wasafari, or Poetry Now (remember that) where would I be. The Regional Arts Boards, literature officers, publishers, Photographers, City Festivals, Theatres, Libraries and librarians (literature activists), West Indian Societies throughout the country (1984 to1990) , Magazines like Black Beat International, Community Centres, Literature festivals from Edinburgh to Brighton, Radical Bookshops: They gave me the chance to shout and shine.
The list is worth writing: organisations such as PRS, MCPRS, ALCS, local councils, bookshops, publishers, schools colleges and universities, lawyers, TV production companies and producers, regional BBC Radio (Manchester), Radio 4 producers, The Agents: PDF, David Higham, Sandra Boyce, Curtis Brown, 57 Productions, Artsadmin, Clare Conville of Conville and Walsh, Suzette Newman, Island Trading, Blasthard, Eliot Rashman, and individual promoters like Helmut Heuer, Record Companies like Yo Mamma in Germany, The British Council, and lawyers and Unions like The Society of Authors: All these people (and more) have helped provide the environment for artists of my generation to grow. And then there are the artists, from Grace Nichols to Bernadine Evaristo. , from Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah to Inua Ellams. Artists, from Carol Ann Duffy to Malika Booker, they lead by example.
I love my career as an artist. This isn’t grandiloquence. It’s cause I’ve been filing and throwing away stuff but I am keeping stuff too. If I could advise the eighteen year old me I would say these organisers and organisations are the engine of the arts. You and your fellow artists are the fuel. Organisers want nothing more than for you to be your best Thank them by being your best. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to advise myself cause I was too busy trying to get a drink from the bar in The green Room (Manchester) or WKD (London). But fortunately I have learned. Filing copy now. Taxes paid.