Equine Encounters ~ part 7

I want to share with you a happy experience I recently had with some horses. A friend of mine called Maureen who is an animal lover made a performance where she talked about how horses are empathic and some are taken to hospitals where children are very sick as they know exactly who to go and comfort. I had never experienced anything like that and have never been that close to horses before. Out the back, beyond the garden at my partner Steve’s, horses have often lived, so spending time there has been my first regular connection with them. Not like getting to know them individually so far, but frequently appreciating their presence and beauty.

There’s been some drama recently out the back sadly, as a few weeks ago in February, a bulldozer cleared lots of the land of all its wild shrubs, bushes, little trees… and it felt very traumatic on a physical level for me and Steve. It made us feel unwell, and realise how important that wild land is to us, like an extension of home. The idea of it being taken away felt horrific. It was like a tiny tiny tiny piece of the experience that indigenous peoples around the world have… so it was a bit of an awakening for us, which in itself is a good thing.

We feared the worst, but a neighbour told us the land is privately owned and that many years ago it was used as farmland, either for cattle or crops. Since foot and mouth disease or something like that over 10 years ago, it was left to go wild after all the animals had to be slaughtered. She thought perhaps it may be likely the land may return to being used for farming. It has mostly been left since that awful episode, and we have yet to discover its fate, but for now it’s been quite peaceful, and it’s still basically a green and brown field, just a lot fewer plants. Things quickly start growing again though. Lots of birds have returned to the garden. Our friend Victoria who is a Green Party activist said that if birds’ nests are removed after March 1st, whoever is responsible can be taken to court, as it is nesting season. The clearance happened before that date however, so that could be strategic, unfortunately.

Going back to the horses, all this while, five horses were living in one part of the field, separated by hedges and a ditch. I was grateful they are still there, and when we go for walks across the field, we can see there is a gap in the hedge where the horses could leave their section and just wander all over the place, but we never saw them doing that since the clearance. Sometimes we saw hoof marks and dung, so we realised that now and again they must roam. A couple of weeks ago, one night as is typical for me, I couldn’t sleep, and at 5 in the morning got up to pour my frustration into my diary. I came downstairs and after I’d been writing, I thought I’d peep out the curtain to see the early morning light.

What did I see? The horses were all outside the garden, right there just hanging about, eating some grass or having a lie down. They always move around together as a gang. I was amazed – all through the day time, they just stay in their area, but here they were, and of all the places they could be, they were outside our place. I felt deeply moved by their special presence, like they were protecting me, like this was a sign of their mysterious and advanced emotional intelligence. I looked at them for quite a while, maybe 20 minutes and they just stayed there. I returned to bed filled with joy.

Again a few nights after that, I got up at 4 unable to sleep. This time didn’t feel like writing, but thought I’d take a look out the window. It was darker this time, but I soon made out some horse shaped blobs right there! Because I wondered if I was imagining it I stayed for ages to be sure, and gradually I saw them move a bit, walk, and as my eyes acclimatised I could see they really were all there, outside the house again. I am blown away by this phenomenon and hope it bodes well for the future of the field.

The horses in the picture above are those who are present now. The ones below used to live on the field for a few years until Summer last year. Then there were no horses for several months and I missed them, until the recent mini herd came along. As you can see, the original cohort were more numerous and free. We don’t know what happened to them but they were awesome too, and often came to say hello during the daytime. Once, they even got into the garden while we were away, made a right mess, and had trouble getting out again, like naughty teenagers! Love all these horsey characters.

Pandemic Perambulations ~ part 6

One year ago on the evening of Monday 23rd March 2020, I made a getaway from London. To say I escaped to Basildon doesn’t quite sound right; but that’s what happened. I’d first travelled over on the Friday 20th, not sure for how long, and as the weekend progressed I realised this might be a longer evacuation. So Steve and I both travelled to mine on Monday to grab as much of my stuff as possible. We arrived in Brockley as Boris was giving his ‘We’re going into a National Lockdown tonight’ speech. I took my bicycle, bike pump, laptop, loads of clothes and basil plant for what could be months.

a year ago!

I had never thought I would want to live in this brexit/ukip hinterland. After 4 and a half years together however, I’d been starting to spend more time at Steve’s in the last few months. We’d discovered some favourite local walking places and quirky pubs. Like Barge Gladys in Benfleet – a pub on a boat, firmly entrenched in the mud, and the 1980s. And just since the Autumn of 2019, our new top hang-out was The Railway pub in Southend. This is a place with a community we could belong with; lots of live alternative music, vegan food, environmentalist activists… Finding it accidentally one evening on our way back to Southend station, was like catching sight of an oasis in Mali. What one had imagined might be a rough dive of punch-up posturing, past the next bronze dune was a cool spot.

In an area where I have seen tourist gift shops unashamedly displaying golliwog dolls in their shop windows, the faded seaside glamour of the beachfront arcades and fast food smells are reassuring only because their commitment to existence suggests gentrification will upcycle its way into other areas first, before it manages to gain a beard trim round there. I like my non-dairy chai latte don’t get me wrong, but in a fibre optic speed changing world, some places staying the same since my childhood can feel oddly grounding. It suggests old communities are probably still intact too.

I exaggerate for there have been changes – pretty lit-up fountains with changing colours by the pavement, and bright beach hut-like smoking shelters along with all the public loos catering for junkies. And the Summer seaside crowds are multi-cultural families of every shade splashing in the sun from Shoeburyness to Chalkwell. I don’t know what they think about those dated gift shop relics, or what it’s like in school. But their colours, fabrics and international head pieces are gloriously taking up space next to us, whoever we are. I’ve seen people who are not white in The Railway too, as it is a pub where intergenerational everyone is welcome who respects our togetherness.

We’d seen the tall black Victorian facade of The Railway, from Southend station platform on our way home from walks. One day we passed in front of the building and saw the sign above its door; ‘Fuck Boris – Migrants Welcome’; the vegan menu on the wall, and notices for live music gigs. This was a promising sign I had not expected, like finding a new place to call home sometimes. Quickly we became devotees, wondering how we hadn’t known about it before. In a way like other parts of Southend, it can seem in a time warp. Both Steve and I used to love going to indie and alternative music gigs in small venues in the early 90s. We didn’t know each other then though our paths could have crossed in the London scene. This Railway place looks and feels like that; unchanged in a good way. It may be the only place like it for miles, so some of its clientele probably travel a way to be there.

Ever since we made that discovery, I had given up a portion of resistance to moving in with Steve or living in that direction. The lockdown getaway therefore came at a time when I was ready. Even if we couldn’t go to The Railway for a few months, I now had faith there were people I’d like to be friends with a bit closer by, and a place where they can gather when lockdown passes. And during the last year that I’ve spent Much more time in the area, each walk venturing in a slightly new direction reveals more curiosities, where I’ll want to delve and uncover. It can take a while to properly see what lies beneath the surface sometimes, and that’s what keeps this South Essex coast and riverbank way appealing and exciting. There is treasure in the marshland; under the pier, behind the theme park and in the backstreets of town. A place which keeps surprising, and where what at first may look ugly, could be in transition.

Me and Steve on the way to The Railway for Halloween 2020
Being witchy at The Railway
Kiss or treat?
The last time we were at The Railway, 4th November for a gig by awesome Ren Stedman whose mushroom T-shirt I am wearing

Lockdown Recollections ~ part 2

Twelve years ago, I was about to make my first performance post-drama school. It happened by accident, a bit like the pregnancy that accompanied it, and was quickly aborted. A good friend of mine had decided to quit smoking dope, and simultaneously signed herself up for numerous AA/NA/MA meetings, and a performance slot in the local community festival. Her optimism was admirable, as was her commitment to sticking with the rehab programme of the Anonymous meetings. Her ability to juggle this with creating a performance was however challenged, and that’s where I came in. I had not quit smoking and had plenty of creative energy to pour into script writing, directing, choreographing… I realised it was what I had been crying out for. I’d gotten a bit stuck as an actor, unsatisfied with the effort put in to not getting roles or rarely having enough artistic input when I did.

My creativity unbound, my womb managed to conceive as my imagination soared. To anyone trying to have a baby I recommend finding your passion in life and following it relentlessly. Chances are if you do conceive, you may end up questioning if you still want it once you’ve experienced how good your life feels living your dream. Or you may open up your heart to abundance and nurture both your passion and your child. Either way you win.

As it happened I did not want that child. I didn’t want to pass on my unresolved issues, including any not entirely conscious resentment for subjugating my personal purpose. It’s a human chain I had no desire to continue, and knew I had not overcome yet. The only nag at my decision making process was the sheer joy my body experienced being pregnant. Something did feel right physiologically and I radiated and glowed. If only I could integrate the disturbing psychology, however I chose a simpler life. I had to allow myself a chance to blossom at least, after a struggle to get to this point. To throw it away, for it would be that – I had barely started on my independent creative path – could be a harsher death than the suction at 8 weeks.

Back to 2020 – when last year I celebrated a year since quitting smoking myself. It took me a lot longer than my friend to get that far, but we all have our own journey and mine was on my own. I had to wait till I could do it by myself as I’m not an Anonymous meeting person. I felt extra relieved not to be addicted in a lockdown; not to be sneaking off to that place and taking extra risks. To be able to pack off to the countryside without that concern at least, even if leaving family was a question. Quitting dope was a massive milestone and one I hesitate to congratulate myself on too soon, as relapses happened before. But it does feel good this time; and, I’ve been public.

Things which many people probably work through in the Anonymous meetings where they are in relatable company, and which I have grappled with too include the huge shameful feelings associated with a dodgy past, and which help to draw one back to a reassuring habit. Facing that shame and not running away has to happen for one to heal. There can be a lot of facing up to do. So much learning before you stop blaming others, making excuses; when deeper compassion is what you really need.

Writing one’s way to success must be the answer for the aspiring imagination; or any sort of making. Last Summer I let go of words and found rhythms in my body moves to respond to drummers’ beats. From South East London I travelled to West Africa, through the djembe and the dundun drums, bouncing on the Earth in the evening air. I found peace there! A circle where masters play and newcomers play, children join in and anyone can dance. This culture is open, accessible, loving and kind; and I was grateful to live in London as well as Essex, once the lockdown eased.

I met these guys at the Summer Solstice 2020, which was the most crowded I’d ever seen Hilly Fields. There was a Black Lives Matter live music festival in the stone circle which attracted hundreds of mainly young people. Normally my friends and a few others have a modest gathering, but this year we were vastly outnumbered. Meanwhile at a quieter patch on the other side of the hill, we found a less raucous, intricately rhythmic circle of African drummers. It was a wide open circle and at first we danced on the outside, before asking if we may go within. They weren’t all African but I later discovered their teacher was Ivorian and so were the beats, mainly from the Zaouli people. It happened that in late May Steve and I had been due to travel to the Ivory Coast. We never got there of course, but I did get in touch with their culture in a very visceral way. As much as I love visiting far away foreign lands, it’s easier to blend in South East London if you are white, than in Africa itself where you always stand out.

The drummers were meeting twice a week at least in configurations of six, and if I wanted to join them as their dancer I was very welcome, for it was a casual arrangement. In the freedom of the park I could dance nearby but never be too close. That became a regular fixture of my London life. It was a new (for me) group of people who lived mostly close by and were united by learning and making music. There is one very special teacher running the crew, and now and again another master drops in. Autumn Equinox was one of the last big gatherings outdoors, and as you can see, went well into the darkness.

These were not the only musicians I’d been hanging out with. Walking across another side of the hill one evening in July, I’d found my friend Sarah practising with her ceilidh band, a sprawling number who are challenged by the rule of six. Where the drummers took it in turns, the ceilidh operated almost as two different groups who happened to play the same tune at the same time! Well they were several metres from each other and very strict about that. When we were and are being starved of live music and performance, and our mental health is not officially prioritised, these musicians brought joy to many passers by as well as each other.

The Black Lives Matter festival folk were doing gigs twice a week in the park too, and they went further and brought a generator to amplify their sounds. It really was a festival scene up there, probably attracting too many people – but lots of people had nothing to do and few places to go, so what can you do. It was a healthy happy vibe, and the Friends of Hilly Fields I imagine, helped out by placing large make-shift bins all over the park, as alas the young people were not so tidy. At some point later on in the Summer, police did move on the BLM party people sadly.

The drummers and ceilidh remained however, as late into the Autumn as light and warmth permitted. When in October the drummers moved indoors to a local church, I decided to stay with them as they had become an important part of my wellbeing. Now I became a drummer too, and learnt how tough the skin on one’s palms and fingers must become. I was grateful for my teacher’s latitude, letting me find my way largely by ear, and eye, a bit like a child, often stumbling. He is committed to encouraging people to learn in the way that works for them, similar to how I had felt about the life modelling. Finding such a generous spirit to learn from was and is a privilege. Classes haven’t happened since December, but from 10 days time as I write, the outdoor small gatherings should hopefully resume and I very much look forward to that.

Lockdown Reflections ~ part 1

I want to mark this date, this passing of time, and break what sometimes feels like a silence. I went from being the busiest I’d ever been – with Spirited Bodies and creating my performances – to a very quiet standstill. Like many other folk, I’m sure; though I was slower and still am less inclined than many, to roll with the transfer to online art practice.

Somehow the alignment for me of pandemic/lockdown, with where I was at, meant a complete shift in life felt in order; not a transfer to a different mode of doing what I’d done before. The alignment was severe. Quite a few what would have been really cool Spirited Bodies events were cancelled. But what struck most strongly was, the last thing I did before lockdown, was my ‘Growing Roots’ performance. Nothing could have felt more appropriate and spooky. I was left feeling that after-shock moment in a new sort of timeless suspension. Revealing some pained part of me to the world as it was filmed. Is that the last thing I wanted the world to know about me? Hell no! But it would take me a while to really feel what next.

I took to Steve’s garden in Essex, digging and weeding away my anxieties and doubts, before the beds were ready for planting new seeds. I managed to take a very long time to do that – pretty much most of the first two month lockdown! It’s not a huge garden, but it hadn’t been looked after in a while. Moreover I really enjoyed taking my time. I quickly realised how much I was getting from therapeutically connecting my hands with the earth; observing all the competing and interweaving plants living amongst each other, as well as the insects and molluscs who made their homes there. It was a new level of peace, and it seemed even to surpass that of the meditation I could find whilst life modelling. Now I was at one in nature; being with the natural environment; finding an ability to work with it. Nothing could persuade me to go and model on Zoom! And we were learning some great new walks in the local countryside which enhanced both our appreciation of his home and the surrounding landscape.

This time has been about re-ordering priorities; scaling back or completely removing what wasn’t serving. Focusing on what heals, uplifts, grows.

With regard to living by lockdown rules, a year ago I immediately feared the stay-at-home order as we’d seen or read about it in Spain and Italy. I know many others have lived that way, but for me that felt like the biggest terror. I knew I would not be a very online person. I would do it a bit, but I’d find ways to avoid doing it much. Maybe it’s an allergy.

Being able to move to Steve’s was an enormous gift. Without that I think I would have resorted to breaking the rules. In Essex I could be outdoors in the garden, and when we went on walks (I was beyond grateful that we were never told not to do that) we could walk over an hour without seeing a single person. We knew we could walk for a few hours if we felt like, and no one would know. We were able to discover new directions to walk to keep it interesting. This made a very big difference to my wellbeing. In many ways my life improved during the first lockdown. I suddenly ceased rushing around. I slowed down and connected with nature and myself. I realised I could live with Steve happily in a lockdown. I embraced living outside London. I didn’t have to work – because I couldn’t, and would rather slowly figure out something new, than model/perform/do events online. It wasn’t simply an aversion to online; it was also aligned with my need for change, to address certain issues.

I no longer wanted to model so much (after 12 years or so of that being a large part of what I do). Performing ‘Growing Roots’ put me in touch with the connection that modelling has to that old troubled time. I wholly wanted to re-examine what I was doing and why.

I have a lot more to say about this and other developments during the last year, indeed during the last 12 years – as on Saturday it will be the anniversary of the first performance I created – ‘An Ordered Kaosz’. But this is a beginning, because today is a year since the ‘Growing Roots’ performance at Candid Art.

Spirited Sound, Love and Life

I want to begin a while back, because this road has been a long journey. This year has been more challenging, but also finally a turning point – in my art, with Spirited Bodies, and in my love life. It all happens at once, yet in stages. I get challenged about why I am sharing the personal, in an art project which is supposedly more for the benefit of others, and I respond, because when I was a younger woman I missed an older female role model, who had the appropriate life experience. I struggled with that, until things gradually fell more into place. I wouldn’t have listened to anyone who purported to understand, and I’d know if they really did. Any more privileged woman who thought she knew best, definitely didn’t. Now of course, I may be the more privileged woman for many, but I am happy to share that it hasn’t always felt thus, and if in some way my message can reach distant others, that is what was in my heart all along.

In short since late May, this year has included several frustrated attempts at connections with venues and individuals with whom I seemingly failed to build a rapport. Trans activists (who were not actually trans themselves) with whom it was impossible to have a sensible discussion about trans issues and how they intersect with the needs of cis women rape survivors in some cases. Competitive women with similar projects to mine, who either viewed me with suspicion, or just thought they knew better. Community collectives who were not open enough to host Spirited Bodies! What could be more appropriate for a community…?

Earlier in the Summer I met Sarah Kent at Brockley Open Studios, in my neighbourhood. We got chatting in artist Gill Hickman’s studio, and something resonated. I attended Sarah’s soundbath and experienced the healing sounds on the floor of her living room. I felt at ease with her, as well as moved by the intense yet soothing vibes. She said expect changes in the next few days, and ideally make space for them.

What I hadn’t known was that my old friend Michael, had died that day or the day before… and I found out a few hours after the soundbath. Michael’s death, for me marked a turning point, a shift of focus. In the middle of Summer this news penetrated layers of the fabric of my being. It took me back to the late 90s when I knew him best, the times and the company we shared. Though I had not been so in touch with Michael in recent years, his strong uncompromising world view sank into me as I relooked at the world through his imagined eyes and the filtered lens of the girl I used to be. Somehow both introvert and extrovert, rebellious, even fearless. The power of youth! While most of us had mellowed, to be fair including Michael in his own minor way, really he had sustained a strikingly similar mentality to what we all remembered. I instantly felt tougher, unaffected by petty crises previously around me. For a while I was invincible! Untouchable. I thought of Michael a lot.

With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s

With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s

My erstwhile longterm relationship that had been faltering, now felt briefly healing again. My partner, connected to the old tribe including Michael, understood intimately my feelings, but the ending of our relationship was imminent. We had drifted apart, and I craved cohesion in my life. A nervous breakdown at one of my modelling jobs alerted me that something had to give. I could not visualise a future that felt fitting, under my current circumstances. The breakdown involved intense feelings of being violated by the artists sculpting me, when in fact I was also aware that neither they nor the tutor (who is one of my favourites) was responsible. The conditions of my life were so disadvantaging me, that I could not see light in my routine. To make a success of my art projects I needed all energies and people in my life to point decidedly the same way, otherwise it was dissipating. I needed freedom. We technically had an open relationship, so when I did find closeness with a new partner, it took me a little while to realise that I could not be so intimate with two men simultaneously. The new relationship rapidly came to mean so much more to me than I could have anticipated. So intense is this new connection that it felt prudent to break up with Aaron. Simple is better; and freshly blossoming love deserves the richest, most fertile ground in which to take root.

In my new partner I found a fellow life model and writer, as well as an enthusiast of all my projects, sharing much passion in nude art adventures, and travel, something I had missed in the past. I also found so much love I hadn’t dreamed of, expected, in one with apparently such different background. His openness, sensitivity, intelligence and understanding take my breath away. As the Autumn took hold, this new excitement grew, and grows. I am in love.

Spirited Bodies again feels in a good place. I have resolved some issues, and feel confident about the involvement of men modelling again. For Spirited Sound I didn’t take any chances with male models. I knew all of the chosen ones personally and felt 100% safe with them. With the help of my partner and other trusted male models, we are creating an exceedingly safe space for everyone. That’s not to exclude the trusted women models from this equation, or the artists, but it was mainly an issue with deceptively inappropriate male models, so feels apt to be solved first, by male models.

All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15

All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15, at the Bargehouse, Oxo Building, Southbank

The healing power of Spirited Bodies is very important to me. I have explored this a few ways; in more intimate workshops, through interviewing models (and artists) about their experience and playing their recorded voices during sessions. Now with Spirited Sound, a new, more direct, less personal but more universal model has been born. The sound instantly seemed to free up the format, necessarily instigating greater experimentation. Traditional life drawing standards according to the wants of some artists are thrown out. This is all about the Spirited Bodies, and this time we tried some movement poses which was a beautiful way to discover even greater harmony as a group. Three minutes of very slowly opening up from a closed posture into something more expansive, and five minutes of flickering gently together, moving as flames of a fire burning brighter and closer.


The session was divided into 4 sections, each representing an element – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Shorter and movement poses in the first 2 parts, then longer poses for Water and Earth. The models connected with each other when they felt drawn to, as they collectively expressed themselves elementally. Dynamic and expansive for Fire, including a slightly longer Scene from Hell – the fallen among the devils. Light and floaty for Air, as well as being blown together in a very strong gust of wind. Flowing waves for Water where the models lay variously in a row, some interconnecting; and pure grounded connection for Earth, each model occupying their own comfortable (I hope!) space. It was a big pleasure to work with the group of models, several I have gotten to know over time with Spirited Bodies, including professionals who enjoy the deepening experience a lot. They create a warm atmosphere for any newcomer.

5 minutes blowing in the wind

5 minutes blowing in the wind








Spirited Sound happened because I had connected with Sarah, and she was interested and happy to bring her sound art to Spirited Bodies. It was her idea to work with the elements as a theme, and she created sounds to fit each mood, to accompany and inspire the models (and artists), and weave a layer of vibrational texture into the space. There were bells, singing bowls (including one large one containing water), large gongs, a rainstick, a jingly instrument which when shaken lightly produces an array of gently tingling bell sounds of different notes.


Spirited Bodies becomes something more layered with the inclusion of sound art; another type of art is intersecting with the life modelling and drawing. A new relationship emerges between musician and models (and artists). Is the sound influencing the models, or vice versa? A bit of an exchange for sure. At one end of the room Sarah laid out her instruments, from where she could see all the action (and stillness) of the models. Had we been in the larger attic space as originally planned, she may have arranged herself in more spread out fashion around the room in order to move about and be among artists and models, so that sounds would emerge from different areas and directions, possibly moving too. Sarah and her instruments could have been linked to the visual aspect of the artists’ attention, perhaps appearing in the art, as positioned within the scenes of poses. The attic also had a particular atmosphere which would have lent itself well to the gravitas of gongs, however it turned out that heating and lighting that space was a task beyond the electricity supply. It was great as it was, but it would also have been fantastic for Sarah to have been slightly more integrated with artists and models. Nevertheless, her presence and sound creation were deeply felt and appreciated by all. This was a joyful collaboration which I hope we may explore again.


I feel more comfortable with the trans inclusion (to women’s sessions) now. This is very delicate, but it’s important to be open. I sometimes feel that a separate group for women only – excluding non-transitioned trans women – will be helpful (particularly for cis women rape survivors, of whom there are probably more than the entire population of non-transitioned trans women). I will tread carefully. One thought is that, if women’s events are open to all trans women regardless of transition, that gesture is what is important. Possibly those trans women themselves are not interested to come along, and may well realise that their inclusion can be tricky; without wanting to be divisive, there are very different needs at play.


The issue of competitive women is being resolved too. I am not taking this personally, but see it as symptomatic of us women, learning how to share our power. This might seem odd to be so gendered, but I do think we are not so familiar as men are, with having power in the first place, and often if we do, we are encouraged to beat off the competition. This doesn’t make sense when our projects are about liberation and empowerment, for all, not just some elite. These higher principles must filter through otherwise projects will die.


Leaving you with a few more pictures of artwork from Spirited Sound. We were very fortunate to have a lovely photographer with us at the event too, so there will be photos of the group of models to follow at some stage. Also, I am just planning an event for December, so keep looking out! And a blog post about the women’s event at Bargehouse will also come soon.

Watery bodies

Watery bodies










With much gratitude to all the models, artists, and Sarah, as well as Kathy, Angie and Jenny from the Southbank Festival of Creativity at the Bargehouse

Kate Tempest & The Brand New Ancients

Billy Bragg + Sound of Rum - Sun 13 November 2...

Billy Bragg + Sound of Rum – Sun 13 November 2011 -0099 (Photo credit: The Queen’s Hall)

Kate Tempest poured wisdom in street tales of ordinary folks struggling, loving and dying in our monstrous every day world. At 26 she has a gift for slicing through character.

Her delivery is understated, her accent could have been affected but it works for her act, and she did tell stories beautifully. Her timing was accentuated by a 4 piece ensemble of musicians emoting her messages, backing her characters. We followed the narrative and sometimes she rapped with a mic, striding the stage. She looks like a child disarming with her wit, unbothered by her appearance, very casual, long curly blond hair.

It kept coming back, the theme of being real in a world obsessed by airbrushing and status – how we bow to that instead of to real people, each other. Kate captured that, by dissecting the mind of a bar maid, the true friendship between hardened criminals and other flawed ordinaries, with poetry. I didn’t cry but I almost did. Nothing in particular really. Just her general knack for teasing something about my heart. I smiled at her a lot, so glad for her talent to shine and inspire others. She can affect people and gave me shivers – that counts.

Brand New Ancients celebrates everyday heroes that we all are; surviving today, and sees the best in each and every ugly one of us, because nothing is black and white.

A matinee audience of school children applauded.

“Thing is, you’re perfect. Because of your imperfections.”

“25 is halfway between non-existence and the infinite.”

Lives of certain individuals from uncouth beginnings, random encounters, climactic violence between the afflicted, addicted and broken; to a moment of heroism and realisation. An old codger dies in Thailand not quite happy with his bride.

“The gods are right here, as farfetched as it sounds, every one’s a god, no kings, no crowns
Just us, one being, infinity, that’s holy, gods messed up lonely
Squashed stressed out dumbed down raging wasted same as it ever was
Brand new ancients”

Crazy Cousin

10 years ago I heard through my family, that a second cousin of mine had been sectioned in a mental hospital; he was only 18 and I didn’t know him. I did know what his Mother was like however, and my ears pricked up. I suspected immediately that rather than insane, he had simply been misunderstood. His Mother was very over-protective and any normal teenager might be deemed crazy by the reactive backlash her overbearing may produce.

I paid him a visit and felt confirmed of my theory. He had been driven to some minor violence and locked away. Oh and experimented with hard drugs, which were now more available to him than when he lived at home. He was of course drugged up on prescription pills, and had a new set of friends on the ward, who were troublesome enough to help keep him sane. We became firm friends; I knew I could fill a unique role where other relatives would fail. Having gone off the rails myself I knew that if I hadn’t had the freedom I’d had in those formative years, I could have ended up in the scary place he was. As it was I was able to find the best possible place and friends with which to share that experimental time. My crazy cousin was no more mad than we had been, except that a duality of a loving/repelling relationship with his Mother blocked his potential to find commune elsewhere. In this light my own Mother’s seeming hatred of me was a blessing; she’d had no problem freeing me.

Growing up became a big ordeal for my cousin; there were several episodes in hospital, rounds of medication, sheltered housing, therapy. Other people in the family didn’t know what to make of him, but I remained constant. He grew enormous for a few years on the drugs, and let his hair and his beard get longer and wilder. His room was a state of filth with quantities of porn, piled, scattered. But he did learn to cook and sometimes accommodated my non meat-eating ways, even if he threw a steak on his own plate to balance the vegetable overload.

He was shy of women as girlfriends, but comfortable as their friend. Most of the people in his family were women, and when he was housed with lots of people I saw many girls come to him for counsel. When he got better his sisters invited him to stay for long periods.

Confidence takes such a long time to establish, and normal work has eluded him. He is much better now though and been off the meds for some years. He looked like a new man when last we met in the Summer, much slimmed down and clean-shaven. He was doing some voluntary work and about to begin a course in Autumn. He wanted to take me out for a meal, he has ever been grateful to have a kindred spirit to talk to. I remember nearly 3 years ago, he came to see a show I performed with a friend, and in the opening scene, I climbed out of a suitcase, naked. I had not warned anyone prior to performance of the nudity, and it was my cousin who decided never to come to one of my show’s again! At least he always asks now if there will be me naked in the show and on finding there will be he declines invitation. I guess it just feels wrong to see one’s family naked for some.

My cousin took a picture of me in Highgate Wood

I met my cousin when I was in the middle of a long relationship with an Italian, and had become somewhat estranged from friends of my wilder youth. My cousin was not dissimilar to some of the men I used to know, and I guess being away from them made me warm to him the more; he bridged a gap, and did not arouse Massimo’s jealousy! I grew very fond of my cousin and he laid down a lifelong foundation in me for a love of bears – men who are big and gentle, kind and strong.

In The Midnight Hour

A dark basement which is also a corridor, recorded in the midnight hour for Charles Hayward‘s installation.

A congregation of pipes, a gas meter, a large china basin and an iron door to a noman’s land. Windows partially blocked, a concrete floor. Lines demarcating a work zone, a stairway above and a garden outside. How did the room wish to be displayed?

Charles felt moved by the room. He sat in it and waited until he knew when and what, how to record.

Time is accelerated and slowed in the final take, and passing by, my own time is overlapped with The Midnight Hour.

a basement, Art House Lewisham

Return to the Motherland

Today Morimda introduced me to her friend Agnes, who first ignited Spirited Bodies in her.

We are learning how to love each other, by stroking! It is called Quantum Touch Healing and the main thrust is gentle strokes, imparting life force energy. Not being afraid to touch each other may be good for our insides which respond by healing themselves, so the theory follows. Stroked by my friends, I love it, brings out my inner feline.

There is so much science doesn’t get, and I am prepared to believe that extra loving could go a long way.

Morimda passed the project over to me when she realised her priorities lay elsewhere. As far as I am concerned Morimda has done the amazing first step of starting this, and I am ever grateful to her for giving it to me. She created it as a project to be passed on, and one day it may come back to her, a little more grown up I hope!

Not long after the first event I was looking for a place to live and the right place came up for me not far from Morimda so I moved to a new area. I didn’t know too many people here in this neck of South East London, but this Autumn a couple of tricks have landed my way that will help to root me in the neighbourhood. I was offered a place in the script writing group at the local theatre, and Morimda invited me to take part in a regular meeting of friends who practise healing on each other. The first will be good for play development, the second all things hippy shit.

This week I met up with a very old friend from my teens, from when I first left home. She was in London showing films with her husband about The Freedom Theatre (www.thefreedomtheatre.org), an organisation in Palestine which offers acting and music classes to Palestinian children on The West Bank. The films spanned the utterly grim to the gloriously hopeful; the message being that the 3rd Intifada needs to be a revolution of theatre, music, film, art – violence will not be the answer.

To see my friend was incredible and inspiring; noticing how both our accents have grown posher with age, yet I heard turns of phrase from her that reminded me of her old self, and I almost thought she was surprised to hear them in herself (again?) but more likely she is quite unified now, as I believe she is at ease with herself.