In the court 2006: another rehearsal
Weeping: why am I silent? Against the law to speak?
Dressed to address, yet justice is locked up, coded, password protected. Pronouncements like hexes, spells, sophisticatedly packed with medieval mystery and they speak everyone: barristers, solicitors, police, recognise only what they’re here to acknowledge, any more and they would be seen as criminal themselves and heretical. So they nod as if they’ve heard an echo from somewhere so deep that it must be real. The whole court nods.
And the real, visceral pain? The story: All locked up…
The refugee from Burundi, Joseph, from a Tanzanian asylum camp fighting for stories, fighting for the human right to be known. To know that each hand, eye, ear, voice and touch here are real and palimpsest: layers and layers of energy in the world.
His energy, mine and yours.
How are we known in such a hostile environment? Is it through the alibi? Providing us all with a way in and a way out?
But where would the beginning be? The shadow of oppression and the rhythm of its opposition. How the 1960’s came to an end.
Music and dance, nothing and everything. Criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness: Osibisa, reel to reel tape, music and news, petitions, campaigns, street plays. Mary Poppins is on the lawn. Dance as a way in and a way out, patterns, chance encounters with another way of moving. Fairness, justice in kitchen table arguments. Street, street sign, bike, roller skates, comic with free gift, equal rights for boys and girls.
‘Why don’t you write it?’
‘Why don’t you?’ I ask, nudging him into my present.
Sitting, at a path, on a wall, at a table, watching the patterns and flow of the story, we see the children’s nightmares poised like clouds above our heads as the two middle aged men veer towards us, out of their minds.
Making and unmaking, creating, breaking, building. Buildings, storeys. Climbing scaffolding, crawling through newly laid sewage pipes to the end of the new estate.
Slam bang I’m in there: ten and a half and I’m wondering why we have architecture like this as I walk to the shops with my thirteen year old cousin who’s staying with us as she waits to go back to court for shoplifting.
Jo thinks she’s really big I think but I watch her while we walk. She doesn’t, or can’t look at anything and talks big about the money, the men, the drugs. I’m confused: why would you do that to yourself, it’s for nothing. Why would you hurt yourself like that. I’ve been hit by a car and I don’t ever want to think about why I walked onto the zebra crossing knowing I was safe. I think I can shut her up by telling her what I really think about the silly facades on the front of the shops: why are they trying to pretend to be elizabethan? I know they’re pretending to be elizabethan because we’ve just done Shakespeare and we’ve had to draw an elizabethan house.
‘Why can’t we have real shops?’ Everything looks like a stage. As if its pretending to be something it is not.
She looks at me for a moment, knows that she’s hurting me and concedes: ‘Yes, they’re awful’ I’ve got her attention now and if I’m not careful, I’m going to lose it. ‘You know I saw a tramp once in the long grass, on the way to the shops’ ‘Yuk’, she says, ‘You need to be careful, they might do something to you’ and my heart sinks: everything seems to have trouble attached to it.
What’s in a name
Fabrice (craftsman, smith) Barayampiema (they’re not telling the truth) aka Andrew (man, warrior) (Andre) Hughes and Joseph (he will add) Mvuyekure (I come from far and have suffered), in the court.
As a family they liked to feel that they were able to look into Britain: a representation of a mad, winning, real world.
Empathy: how shadows and light tell the stories. Watch our journey research. We are the writers. Council estates have become places to plunder. How noone wants to look as if they work.
In their space: forty years before now
THEY were a mixture of colour, light and tone, compositionally beautiful as they sat together around the television set: socially engineered to be focussed on a monocultural vision. Grandmas, grandads, fathers, sons and daughters in ads, programmes and current affairs.
The picture we see of them isn’t reality as it doesn’t include mothers, hardly ever includes black caribbeans Irish, Italian, Asian or Chinese people but it was near enough to be slightly comical, close enough for everyone in a family to have an opinion, believe that there was work and thinking going on behind those screen scenes that was really about the world as they saw it.
Who are they?
From every age, class and background, they are an intelligence that goes out into the day from the squalor of self centred materialism to the luxury of the uncertain world: people looking for stories, finding ways of telling stories that shut out the working, shopping or unemployed parent of what being is, here, now in this society.
Really though, the re-construction of Britain after the second world war it was always about reducing people to their follies…society moving to a place where you have no right to refuge, personality, autobiography, even a body worth anyone’s interest.
A story is a minor detail surrounded by several other event horizons, council estates have become places to plunder. How noone wants to look as if they work.
Man, woman. Sneinton, Nottingham. Car following. The woman wants the man badly. People writing him, trying to write him. It never works. The police watch. The woman tries to imagine what it is like to live the life he has lived. The police in the car don’t see this man and woman as human beings. They have no feelings for the people they are watching. They have empathy for people who are like themselves.
Man, woman. Car following. The woman wants the man badly. People are writing the man, trying to write him all over the city and beyond.
It never works.
The police watch. The woman tries to imagine what it is like to live the life he has lived. The man and the woman are intelligent but they live lives that are less than they need and they find that intolerable.
Can you forgive and if you can forgive, will society care that you care enough to forgive?
Walking, man, woman. Sneinton, Nottingham. Car following, slows down. The man is talking to the woman. She talks back fast, hurriedly explaining something. She wants him badly. She’s slept with him, casually, passionately while dreaming of a private life, respect and security.
He’s slim, muscular, average height for a man, five foot ten.
People write him, always trying to write him. In a police car ten yards away are two stations of the police, watching silently, like belisha beacons. The police watch as the man grabs her purse and runs from her. It’s boxing day.
Light from the police car winks at the surrounding houselights. Andrew’s always conscious of light and shade, attracted yet suspicious, like a rhythm that has played him relentlessly since primary school. The police aren’t interested in him today, they’re interested in a man they have been advised is an illegal immigrant. They have been observing his comings and goings and they see him abused in the street, eating takeaways and sleeping in an illegally parked car. They suspect he is part of a gang.
Murder and Mayhem
Murders from Stephen Lawrence onwards begin to have a fictive quality. Such injustice must have a fictive quality to it, someone in authority knew it was going to happen and could have prevented it. Get to grips with who’s really making the trouble and you’ll have peace.
Why not Write a Story?
Walking down the road.
Man, woman, Sneinton, Nottingham. Car following. Car slows down. The man is talking to the woman, she is talking to him, fast, hurriedly explaining something. The woman wants the man badly. Casually, though, she has slept with him, casually, yet passionately. She thinks that it is their private life. Six brothers, three sisters. He’s slim, muscular, average height for a man which makes him five foot ten. He’s well proportioned.
The Tanzanian man is also called Andrew here, on the street in his car to the people he knows aren’t friends. His real name is Fabrice which means craftsman. Barayampiema which means they are not telling the truth.
People writing him, always trying to write him. It never works. In the car are two police. They watch as the man shouts at the woman. The man grabs her purse and runs from her. It’s boxing day. The police watch the Andrews,(definition, man, warrior) understanding the path they are both taking.
The woman tries to imagine what it is like to have lived the life he has lived. The man and the woman consider themselves outside the law because the law doesn’t consider them human. The police in the car don’t see this man and this woman as human beings. They have no feelings for the people they are watching.
Evening Post headline: “MONSTER” Fabrice’s face is on the front page: the lobes of his forehead distorted, the camera, lolling, colluding with the distortion. “This is the face of the gang member who with others, stormed a betting shop in Sneinton. The gang of four held up the staff at gunpoint before escaping with £500”.
He’s from a big family, Andrew, with six brothers, three sisters. He’s slim, muscular, average height for a man, which makes him around five foot ten. He’s well proportioned. Occasionally, never often enough in his life, some attention has been drawn to his physical potential: as a very young child, as a teenager, now, maybe sometimes when someone needs something doing, or when the woman he knows try to make him do something for them.
People writing him, trying to write him. It never works. He doesn’t know what he could be he only knows that there is something in holding onto silence. Even when he yells he’s somewhere else.
In the car are two police. They watch as the man shouts at the woman. She shouts back. She tries to grab his arm as he pushes her away, roughly. She nearly falls. The man grabs her purse and runs from her. She chases him, calling to him. The street is quiet and dark. It’s boxing day. She has been living in the refuge in Loughborough and she wants a reconciliation with him, wants to squeeze some christmas cheer out of the year. She owes him some money and he is going to take it.
The police watch. The two are familiar. The man thinks that while he isn’t in custody he is free but that it is only a matter of time before the police come knocking for him again. The woman tries to imagine what it is like to live the life he has lived. She has a large family and they all think they love each other
It’s always a fight.
Movement and its repression.
He looks at me as if I’m real but he can’t understand what I am saying.
I’m making a new world because we know how much the old one injures us
I feel him writing. I look up. He’s writing, the same moment when he notices me, he writes. ‘I need to let you know how it feels to choose a moment to write that is really someone else’s full stop; their paragraph, their semi colon: how it feels to find each detail of your life hammered painfully across someone else’s road map for their future’.
Writing is hiding, boxing clever. Expressing love for the work in such tender terms, letting you feel that you are really the writer. Taking you in, explaining what I may do next because that is what writing has come to mean for women: preparation, ritual, rehearsal, of an act of betrayal, whether of an individual, group or a cause.
A bit like a crucifixion, really.
The way I sat in the crown court and watched the story of the Fabrice, Andrew, (Andre) Hughes and Joseph (he will add) Mvuyekure (I come from far and have suffered), in the court. the ‘Tanzanian refugee‘ (migrant ecnonomic unit), unfold, tears rolling down my cheeks.
How he came here on a two year visa, how he was a chef, how he became ill, how he lost his job and ended up sleeping in his car and selling drugs, how he was picked up by a gang, how he was persuaded to take part in a robbery. How he was all the time suffering from TB and how he had suffered. How people around him who cared for him didn’t know because he was too proud to let them know that illness was a weakness.
The written never really tells what they were really doing. Or even what they could be doing. Noone really interrogates the scene of the crime of writing except for a few odd critical theorists, getting even.
I read people and I am read. Witness and criminal. Needing to do this because I am misread.
It’s always a fight. A struggle against my desire to control what will get written, how the balance of what was said or done will be expressed as writing. Writers feel other writers writing against the possibility of them writing all the time.
It’s only if the rhythms, patterns are any good that you’ll find yourself idly following my train of thought.
You’re here then, just for the ride: News is Art.