It’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 and 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. 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.
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. .