A while since I blogged, but a fair amount has been going in in the background. I’m very surprised and pleased to announce I have received a grant from the Arts Council with which to write my new novel, more about which will no doubt follow over the coming months.
With the many downsides of Covid, I’m relieved to report that it has proven fertile writing territory, in the absence of anything else to do. Since February, I have completed a memoir about the making of my first feature film, Offending Angels and also a children’s fairy-tale called Amethyst. On top of this, I’ve written two feature scripts. A good daily rhythm of walking, watching a film and then settling down to writing, uninterrupted.
After twelve solid years, I had to wave goodbye to my trusted steed, my 26-yr-old Mercedes 190E. With the incoming ULEZ (Emission Zone) restrictions happening next year, it was no longer a viable option, despite the miles it still had in the engine.
I hope this missive finds you all well and promise not to leave it so long…
Ken Rea’s New Edition
It’s almost a guaranteed thing, whenever you bump into a fellow Alumni from Guildhall, should you mention tutors of yore, their face always lights up when you say Ken Rea. All of his teachings were infused with warmth. All he kept demanding was warmth, generosity and a sense of play from his students. And over the years, a great many household names have passed through his class. From Ben Chaplin, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic West, Orlando Bloom, Michelle Dockery and Lily James.
I always felt a little sorry for all the actors who had never had the chance to work with him, inspirational and supportive as he was. There’s certainly a whole generation of actors who remain thankful for his teachings. Well, the good news is, having taught for as long as he has (three decades), he recently wrote and released a book about acting published through Bloomsbury Methuen, it’s called “The Outstanding Actor – Seven Keys To Success”.
It’s an outstanding insight into the workings of an actor. And not just any actor, but good actors, with input from the likes of Dame Judy Dench, Al Pacino and Nicholas Hytner. The seven chapter headings read: Warmth, Generosity, Enthusiasm, Danger, Presence, Grit and Charisma. I mean, forget about acting, who doesn’t want to get a handle on all that!?
However the landscape of acting changes, be it theatre, radio, film or television, the means of telling any given story well remains paramount. It’s the storyteller we invest in, with whom we are asked to relate to. I think it quite telling that whenever anyone talks about the greatest, the most famous lines in movie history, no one remembers the poor writer, only the actor.
‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. ‘Say hello to my little friend’. ‘I’ll be back’.
I’d recommend The Outstanding Actor to anyone really, it’s an incredibly interesting read, whether you have aspirations to act or not, but especially if you are an actor. Ken also periodically runs seminars open to anyone not training under him at The Guildhall. You can find out about these by going to his website www.kenrea.com
The Windrush Scandal and Me
Windrush is a distressing thing to talk about, for several reasons. Mostly when thinking about those who were affected by the Home Office Hostile Environment policy, where, under Theresa May, they destroyed the landing cards of several hundred thousand Brits, invited over to help with the ailing NHS and transport systems in the 60’s and 70’s. Knowing that, in destroying this evidence, they removed any official proof that these Commonwealth people were legally allowed to stay in the UK. Having removed that key evidence, they then set about asking the very same people for the very proof they had destroyed. When the bewildered taxpaying UK resident failed in this request, they lost their rights. Right to stay in the UK, right to free NHS treatment and right to work.
To compound this extraordinary string of events, the HO was then permitted to police itself, effectively allowing the very people found guilty of creating the situation in the first place, to then decide who was deserving of recompense and how much. This inevitably created a secondary slew of injustices, as applicants had their claims channelled into endless requests for paperwork that again didn’t exist or was too hard to find, dating back as it did to the 70’s. Some claimants, having lost livelihoods and residency, were awarded piffling sums in the low hundreds of pounds, not even covering the losses they accrued. Some died of illnesses, unable as they were to find NHS treatment. Some remain abroad, unable to re-enter the UK, and having been away for so long, are now no longer counted as UK residents anyway, regardless of the fact they may have had homes and brought up families here.
My birthmother was Windrush, coming over in the early 60’s to work for the NHS. Falling pregnant, she was thrown out of nursing. She was terrified of being found illegal, despite being invited over. She’d heard stories. From the early 70’s she pursued UK Citizenship. She was refused, all the way, up until 3-weeks before she died of undiagnosed cancer (see earlier para about NHS treatment). She shelled out a quarter of all the savings she had, to buy a UK passport she was rightfully due, the day she arrived in the UK. She never actually received it before she passed in 2009.