The North East is a melting pot and no amount of British nationalism can erase that. The Big Ben Bongs at 11 pm on December 31 to herald Britain’s freedom from the EU signify nothing other than blatant English nationalism. This will be a date in which I lose part of me, detached without will; it’s not a new year heralding something new, it’s a death. The death of the future I had planned for myself, right up to retirement. It’s out of my control, a sort of prison without visible bars.
No Prime Minister can cancel Christmas: no more than he can damage our resolve and our spirits. He cannot take away what we value most, family, friends, hope, determination, love, peace and justice. Solidarity friends.
A book to read:
Poems from a Runaway, A True Story by Ben Westwood – An autobiographical anthology that charts Ben’s life as a serial runaway, evading the care system and the law, sleeping rough in London before finding salvation in music and poetry, and eventually reuniting with his family. I had the privilege of meeting Ben when he was a keynote speaker at a conference in the European Parliament organised with Missing Children Europe and the Child Rights Intergroup (which I co-founded). You can find out more about Ben and buy his book here
Frozen H20 floats immiscible on ponds As blades score surface with festive bonds. Snowflake fractals float upon a breeze Defying gravity, concealing lost leaves. Ilex aquafolium bleeds a hoary frost, waxy cuticle, cloaks shivers – no water is lost. Satsuma segments of time zones split and the world’s turn slows on the axis as tinselly-string […]
English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge visited Castlerigg stone circle in 1799 with William Wordsworth and noted that “the mountains stand one behind the other, in orderly array as if evoked by and attentive to the assembly of white-vested wizards”.
Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse
That wasn’t the case
Father Boris was waiting
A mask on his face.
In these northern latitudes, the light is sparse and winter bares its white and weathered fist against the fastnesses of night. We decorate the darkness, cannot stand its plain finality. Daub it with tinsel dress it in baubles, switch on season’s greetings in the streets. Perhaps God is dead; perhaps the shortest day will dwindle […]
Here in Ireland we had a longer autumn lockdown than you’ve suffered in the UK, including a 5km travel restriction from mid-October to December 1st, and even now, a request to stay within our county. In our case, that would allow us to sample the delights of Dublin City, but we have restrained ourselves, having no wish to actually go looking for the virus, like the famous shellfish vendor; “She died of a fever, and no-one could save her, and that was the end of poor Molly Malone”.
Gathering garlands I forage
for fronds of evergreen
to make eternal circles
Why not click the links for some fantastic Christmas craft ideas?
t’s going to be seven-ish at the earliest before I’m ready to eat again. I always find Christmas Pudding too heavy, so perhaps a classic Panettone (dried fruit rather than the chocolate variety) would make a good replacement. I had considered making a Panettone bread and butter pudding but I think I’ll have it with custard. Not very Italian, I know, but I love custard and as I’m cooking for me and me alone, custard it shall be!
There’s a Robin in the meadow,
Nocturnal soloist in darkest night
Sing your song, as notes fade to dark
but burn bright, with breast alight.
The North’s cultural industry has been hit hard and faces an historic challenge as the global pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives. The Northern Culture APPG will promote and champion the huge economic contribution made by the North’s cultural sector, build consensus and fight for what the government needs to do to level-up and build back the North’s cultural potential now and in the longer term.
There are moments profound,
tissues all round, talk of hope, coping strategies.
Rose Island is delightful. It is funny. It is sad. It is intriguing and compelling. And it is ultimately inspiring. I wish I could see it in the cinema.
“We know that freelance performers, technicians and artists have really struggled while venues have been closed, and many people have been unable to access government financial support – so it’s vital that we do our bit to help. Christmas with the Hobs gave us an opportunity to bring together North East arts professionals to create a magical Christmas gift from Northumberland. We hope you enjoy it!”
As always at a retirement event, the people whom you have upset don’t come and you are offered an inflated sense of your own worth but basking in this illusion is pleasant. The more formal atmosphere enabled a much larger number of people to remind me in brief unscripted speeches of some episodes I had forgotten. I missed the opportunity for conversations with individuals. Asking people about their parent’s dementia, their child’s troubles, their bereavement, cancer, depression or divorce in front of an audience starved of entertainment by Covid-19 would probably be inappropriate, although I did not test this hypothesis.
After centuries of conflict
weapons are finally downed.
The cruellest disease has silenced guns,
until a vaccine can be found.
The trains are grubby and I crave
cold Asahi Super Dry from the trolley
In 1984 I found myself running an arts and disability agency for the north of England, and encountered the tail-end of the mass segregation programme that had resulted in millions of people with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities being locked away in large institutions, forced to do menial work for pocket money and with little say about any aspect of their lives. The arts activities that my organisation ran often opened up deep emotional scars from years of abandonment, disregard and abuse. Paintings, poems and performances were littered with powerful symbols of imprisonment and freedom.
The company – five actors and me – met up at 8am, shared themselves between the van and the one car (the producers would only pay expenses for one car) and off we went. By 9am we’re getting the set, costumes, sound system and everything else necessary into the venue, then we fit it all up and at 10am the show goes up. It comes down at 12 noon, when we take down, get out and drive to the next venue, which was Darlington. We get in, fit up, the show goes up at 2pm, comes down at 4pm, when we take down, get out and drive to the third venue, which just happened to be in Prudhoe.
Miss Trew organized performances in community centres, and many were done to raise money for charity. To date, Miss Trew’s school has raised thousands upon thousands of pounds for charities.
Pay It Forward: Northern Stage supporters gift festive show to schools, hospitals and care homes across the North East this Christmas
“It is an absolutely fantastic thing for Northern Stage to do this year when the children and schools have had such a hard year. We really appreciate it. It’s just such a kind and lovely gesture.” Karen Turland from Lobley Hill Primary School in Gateshead
Sad though it is that children, teachers, parents, grandparents, family and friends may well miss out on the inimitable traditional nativity, celebrated in the school hall, local church or community centre, all is not lost! The household tea towel drawer can rise to the occasion, and allow all those family members, who’ve ever wanted to don the occupants of its drawer, to do so – with a home-grown family production of a traditional school musical!
The North, chipped and scavenged in these standing stone days, does not fall asunder nor domino down in sight of barber surgeons with their slingshots, chippings. Long abraded by high seas, we stack lean as limestone, holding our breath like we have held our noses, impassive in the face of this flitting ephemera. We Danelaw […]
yes man, yes man, three bags full of grass
Where you been lass?
You ate what? From a stranger?
It was out of the Harlequinade that pantomime developed, with all the character types we know today – but no Dame! She came into panto from the English tradition of women not being allowed to appear on stage. Her first appearance was not in panto at all but in the Mystery Plays of the 15th and 16th centuries. I always think that the first panto Dame was Mrs Noah from the Noah and the Flood story of The Mysteries.
“I’m very excited for people to see this show. I’ve never written a musical before but with the amazing work Jen Stevens has done, we have put together something truly special. Now more than ever we need to make sure the magic of Christmas stays alive and with this fantastic cast, I think we may have done just that.”
“We have become more driven towards raising money for the LGBTQ+ community and trying to increase their presence in the North East gaming and streaming environment. In going forward, we are hoping to set up SFST as a charity aimed at helping members and organisations of the LGBTQ+ family, with an interest in streaming and gaming, by offering them support and technical help. We also are looking to assist with micro grants to help get people set up and ultimately build a Northern Gaming LGBTQ+ Network”.
Children growing up in post-pandemic, recession-hit Brexit Britain will have many challenges as they face a shrinking job market, mounting debts and a future cut off from their European peers, denied the right to travel, work, live and fall in love across a union of what was 28 different countries.