(UGANDA/SHROPSHIRE/NEWCASTLE)
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS

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23
i'm sick of hearing you go on about the people
who are the bloody people you keep on about

and out of her pocket
where they have been smelling around for such a question
jump the ready contenders
with their answers written out
learned by heart
and practised non-stop since they saw this poem
blooming in my garden and about to be picked

 i am the people
                 said the bishop
the people speak with the voice of god
i am the voice of god
                q e d - i am the people

i am the people
                said the public school boy
the people are the public
the public go to public schools
                q e d - i am the people

i am the people
                said the duchess
duchess is a popular way of serving potatoes
potatoes are a common food
the people are common
and what is of the people is popular
i am both popular and common
                q e d - i am the people

i am the people
                said the racehorse owner
i have two legs
a horse has four legs
a horse is not the people
                q e d - i am the people

i am the people
                said the millionaire
my money i'm told breeds faster than the chinese
in the human-race there are only people
                and not-people
the people breed faster than the not-people
the chinese indisputably are people
anything that breeds faster than the chinese
                must be people also
my money therefore is people
i am my money
                q e d - i am the people

the people
said the people
i don't know
perhaps they live next door

the people
                said the people next door
no they don't live here
have you tried the big house up the road

the people
                said the people in the big house up the road
no they did live here
but they moved away when they came into money
or was it when the blacks came
i'm afraid this is not the house it was
are you sure they exist any more

q e d - the only people who are definitely not the people
                  are the people

man it's perfectly simple
people are in the eye of the beholder

authority says
as far as we are concerned
(and we are concerned only in so far as it suits us)
the people may exist but can't live

whereas the people the revolution is interested in
(and needs for its own justification)
those people may live but can't exist

who sucks the good egg

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25

INSTANT THEATRE
An acting group presenting Instant Theatre
usually consists of THREE actors
the questioner first actor and second actor
(the questioner also fills in as third actor)

A form of participatory performance
in which the answers provided by an audience
in response to neutral questions from a questioner
establish (scene by scene) the story-line of a play

Some programmes may begin
with the use of defining cards or an acted scene
but once the questioning begins
questions must be neutral (open to any answer)
not leading (seeking a specific answer)
questions may vary according to the genre of the story being explored
(ie - horror story - folk tale - detectives - voyage -
and an unlimited number of others)
but usually they follow an initial general pattern
working through the six ws in a fixed order

who
(sex age name etc) - the main character of story

when
the exact moment in the year
(season - day of the week - time)
when the story starts

where
(inside outside - city town village countryside)
the exact location of the main character
when the story starts

weather
what's it like when and where the story starts

what
is the main character doing
at that time and place as the story starts

what happens next
what (in these conditions) starts the story moving towards its end

each w
is more clearly established by subsidiary questions
and the situation may get complicated
(from the beginning)
by two or more heard answers
contradicting each other

this anomaly
(that resolves contradictions
equally favourably to both or all answers)
has to be dealt with before the story can move on

an answer that fully satisfies the question asked
is called a closed answer

an answer that fails to satisfy the question
(through contradictions or ambiguities aroused)
is called an open answer

throughout the questioning
no answer is allowed to contradict any previous answer
without a further question
to discover how both answers can be true

The simplest way
of starting a piece of Instant Theatre
is to establish a character
man woman boy or girl or what
and let the story grow from there
through the six ws

The questioning stops
when the questioner determines
the information is sufficient
for a scene to be acted out

the play is cast
first by allowing first and second actors to choose their roles
the first actor always takes the leading role

then the other parts are named
other characters - inanimate objects - props - pieces of furniture
(where named for use in the story-gathering)
and audience members are invited
to volunteer to play those parts

in Instant Theatre
the audience is asked to accept responsibility
for creating the story
and helping act it out

if the audience does not accept that challenge
then the play does not get performed

however no one in the audience can be made to take part
all participation in Instant Theatre is VOLUNTARY

each story created by Instant Theatre
is collected in note form
over twenty-thousand such stories have been collected

Instant Theatre has been performed
in more than twenty five countries
in venues ranging widely
through schools youth and adult organisations
with audiences ranging
from old people to pre-school nursery children
taking in prisons hospitals centres for all kinds of disability

An Instant Theatre story
is a mirror of the group spirit of its audience
many of the stories have been explored
in the light of traditional symbolism
and other divinatory processes

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27
i was surprised one morning at school
when the drama teacher came into the
                hall to take assembly

we sang the usual dull hymn
and a girl read a piece from a book
                (it wasn't the bible)
and read very badly and nobody was listening
some people near me started talking in loud whispers

the drama teacher stood up
it was his first attempt at taking assembly (he said)
he'd specially chosen the passage the girl was reading
and she was doing her best with it
how rude it was for people to make all this noise

who did he think he was - the headmaster
anyway he made the girl read it again

she got about halfway through this time
when he jumped to his feet in a temper

i'm not going to have it he shouted
you're doing it deliberately
just because i'm new at running an assembly

and he picked on a boy in the front row
                who was doing something stupid

i couldn't see what was hurting him so much
assemblies were always like that

the poor girl
had to stumble through the passage
for a third time
i tried to listen this time
 but it was still very boring
something to do with authority
(of all things)

anyway she didn't get that far
before the teacher was shouting his head off

the boy in the front had taken to swinging a chain
(he was asking for trouble
the teacher was just about doing his nut)
and when he was told to put the chain away
he asked why should he

the teacher pushed his chair from the table
and jumped to the front of the stage
close to where the boy was sitting

(i thought he was going to fall over the edge
i've never seen a man so angry)
the hall was dead quiet now
like listening for the tick of a bomb

come here you fool (he yelled at the boy)
i'm not coming (said the boy)
if you want me
you'll have to come and get me

how dare you talk to me like that
(the teacher roared)
and leaping down from the stage
grabbed the boy
and swung him in one movement
and pushed him flying
into the space on the floor
just in front of the platform

the boy fell hard
but immediately picked himself up
and came back
and shoved at the teacher
don't push me around like that
(he shouted)

it could have been the beginning of revolution
everyone else (the other teachers included)
sat stock still disbelieving their own eyes
it was like being suspended
in the middle of an electric shock

they were both pushing each other now
and arguing at the tops of their voices
one or two teachers had stood up on the platform
waiting for their chance to join in

suddenly a girl stood up in the body of the hall
i think this is terrible (she said)
who does the boy think he is
the teacher's request was perfectly fair
the boy
had been making a deliberate nuisance of himself
and he should have shut up

there were murmurings at that

it was too much for a second girl
i think you're absolutely wrong (she argued)
the teacher must be to blame
if he hadn't picked on the boy but ignored him
then it wouldn't have come to this
pushing the boy about wasn't the answer
the teacher had lost his temper
and was using his authority as a teacher
to get his own way

the first girl was still on her feet

the boy was determined to cause trouble
what else could a teacher do
in the face of such insolence

the boy and the teacher
were glaring at each other
and the two girls now
had a set-to in words
people were muttering agreement
with one or the other
the teachers on the platform
were still very unsure

then a ginger-haired boy
was trying to separate the girls
calm down (he was saying)
this is not the way to go about it
surely the right thing to do
would be to set up a debate
anyone who has something to say
could say it in an orderly manner

it took a while for his words to sink in
(the incident had been moving so fast)
then the whole hall went up
in an explosion of laughter
(one of the teachers walked out in disgust
we'd been had
a put-up job from beginning to end
a piece of argument-drama

they wanted the rest of us
to join in the debate
but it was obvious
those who joined in
were part of the set-up
no one else had the nerve
so from that point of view
i suppose it was a failure

but we talked about it all day
and i've never forgotten it
and it's the only assembly
i look back on with pleasure

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31


responses to
eleven of Blake's PROVERBS OF HELL

(extract 1)

a memorable fancy
(by WILLIAM BLAKE)

as i was walking among the fires of hell, delighted
with the enjoyments of Genius, which to Angels look
like torment and insanity, I collected some of their
Proverbs, thinking that as the sayings used in a
nation mark their character, so the Proverbs of Hell
shew the nature of infernal wisdom better than any
description of buildings or garments

When I came home, on the abyss of the five senses,
where a flat sided steep frowns over the present
world, I saw a mighty devil folded in black clouds
hovering on the sides of the rock; with corroding
fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived
by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.

how do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way
is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?


(extract two)


drive your cart and your plow
over the bones of the dead

(sections)

A.
dear mother
i'm thinking of starting a revolution tomorrow
little's got out about it yet but on our side
we've got it more or less planned
we don't think the establishment will give us
               very much trouble
when they see which side of the fence
               the people will fall
(we assume of course the people are with us)

but mother
i can't stop being afraid of the dead

dear son
you're not fit to grow up
until you stop being afraid of the dead
the dead are the biggest shit-shovellers in creation
they'll lie till eternity
or are you more scared of the dying

people die by incompetence in our factories
do the industrialists drop their money and weep

people are butchered on the roads in their thousands
do we bury the roads
are the car-works places of mourning

people are screwed up by loneliness
               and left to die in our cities
do their neighbours stop laughing

how many people does poverty rot in a year
governments grow fat
and the rich
continue to cushion their mansions

the world is a killing and dying
officialdom kills with a deadly indifference
hypocrisy kills and smiles to hide it
killing is done every day in our name
it's the only way we know how to live

so do what you have to
people will die of it anyway
no matter how careful you are
people will die if you don't do it

my son
the dead are just bones
it was flesh held the magic

so do as blake says

as for the dying
they're bastards
when it comes to the crunch
they only care for themselves

so as for the dying
che sera sera

but my son
please for my sake
make sure it doesn't have to be you


   B.
order from above
(that means hate)
has always caused
chaos down below
the people though
get used to it
and say
i suppose
the buggers up there
know what they're doing


 
    the law says
of course
  why complain then
if order from below
(that means love)
brings in its wake
chaos for those above
if you rule the roost
though you're not used
to putting up with it
all you can think of
is
   i'll show those
ignorant swine who
cleans whose boots
 
    the law says
quite right
  this has been the
reasoning behind most
of the dirtiest
games in history
 
    including the law


C.
concluding paragraphs of the people report

733 today it is possible to apply the shitmus paper test (differing from
litmus in that it turns red for salts) only to people

734 previous investigations have conclusively proved that institutions do
not contain salt

735 even those institutions apparently concerned with the betterment of
conditions for the shit of the earth have (in the course of their
involvement with the rules of the game insisted on by the estab-
lishment and by their own convictions that to fight an enemy it is
necessary to ape his manner of dress) forfeited their own salt-
touch

736 attempts by determined shitters to re-invigorate such institutions with
doses of natural salts have to date failed

737 therefore since it is our statutory concern to bring the people and
what machinery of government is necessary into one body and since
no progress can be expected nationally institutionally or through
any other form of authority for the next million years

738 it is our firm belief that all future attempts to bring a highway
between the people and that castle in the air called parliament
must be made working slowly from the people outwards especially
since all attempts to run the road down from the clouds have failed
by all standards associated with humanity and common sense

739 it is our experience that mountain tracks are thoroughly unsafe being
prey to brigands of avaricious and unscrupulous character who are
yet so entrenched with the authority they are protected by laws
that they themselves have forced into statute and which bring bene-
fit (of considerable proportions) to themselves alone

740 there is an urgent need for the road to be commenced from the plain

741 there is an urgent need (if this is to be achieved) for real power to
be translated immediately from the clouds to the plain

742 once this has been accomplished we recommend widespread application of
the aforesaid shitmus paper test (paper that is soaked in ordinary
human excrement symbolising a common love - to be wafted under the
noses of testees and reactions noted) to all those claiming kinship
with the people so as to determine -

  in what manner the desired road may be laid down

what hazards are likely to be encountered

and where in the past turnings and pitfalls of an un-
               ethical nature have been foisted upon the
               people by pressures and duplicities above

743 there is no doubt whatsoever in our minds that our society (like
excalibur) is stuck helplessly in the stone and will not be re-
leased by strong-arm methods on the part of the establishment-
contenders but must await the coming of a kind of poetry the
birth of a genuine concern for those who may honestly be called
the people

744 we ask for a new magna carta to be driven with fortitude over the bones
of the dead one that at present incarcerates us

745 indeed it is not fanciful to say that the people today exist in a
charnel house to which they have grown so accustomed they no longer
recognise it for what it is although they are being stifled by its
dead bones

746 we pray for their freedom forthwith

signed by the chairman of the commission (lord people) etc

D.
unless

in the cool of evening
a face comes to the window
and whispering a name
is asked to come in

 

get up and go man
get up and go

they've pinned you to the floor
with their knees on your windpipe

get up and go man
get up and go

they've weighted you with stones
and the waters are rising

get up and go man
get up and go

they've bound you to the track
and the express train is thundering

get up and go man
get up and go

they've dumped you on the mountain
and the avalanche is roaring

get up and go man
get up and go

they've tied you to a post
and the rifles are firing

get up and go man
get up and go

unless

in the still of night-time
fingers go on journeys
bodies are made to move mountains
to change what earth is

 

they've trapped you in a bunker
and the flames are belching in

get up and go man
get up and go

they've locked you underground
and the test bomb is blasting

get up and go man
get up and go

they've strapped you to a rocket
and its motors are burning

get up and go man
get up and go

because they control the world
are you going to let them beat you

get up and go man
get up and go

unless

in the freshness of dawn
new streets grow in the heart
and people who walk there
can bear to face what they love

what are you so worried for man
don't you have the people on your side

get up and go man
get up and go

 

E.
hurry up there's not much time
said eliot
(or something like it))
feeling towards his own
(and his world's) death

hurry up there's not much time
i say
(and some don't like it)
creeping towards my own
(and my world's) birth

i'll drive over the bones of you
any day
dead eliot

any day now
i mean to trespass on that waste land of yours
with a packet of beans in my pocket
or peas
or maybe flowers would brighten up the place better
how about sunflowers say
or gladioli
i haven't properly sorted it out yet
but i shall be coming with something
(and a book of instructions)
so look out eliot
and all the sub-eliots of this earth
(i've lost the cigarette packet
i had it all written down on)


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35

RING YOUR OWN BLOODY BELL
The Troubles (68-70)

(extract)

Towards the end of January 70, heads of departments were being called into the headmaster's office to be told what was to happen to their departments from the following September. The after-comments from some of the heads of department were caustic. The head of art wrote to the County Art Adviser. And got nowhere, being more or less told to be a good boy. I was called in on a Friday afternoon at the end of school.

No preamble this time. No intention of argument. The Drama Department was, with the agreement of the governors, to be taken over by the English Department and decisions about drama were to be taken jointly by the head and the head of English. No first year drama, no course starting in the fourth year, although the present fourth year would be allowed to finish the two-year course it had already embarked upon. In the second and third years the top there-quarters of the children would have to do literary drama: the type usually practised in grammar schools. the bottom quarter would be allowed to carry on with social drama (considered my speciality). Did this mean I was to revert to being an English and drama teacher? Yes.

I pointed out this was well outside the terms of my contract in coming to the school, and was pushing me back to something I had deliberately chosen to move away from years ago. This was irrelevant. Of course, B. said, he had no doubt about my sincerity. Not what he'd said on our previous meeting, I reminded him: he'd told me my motives were totally dishonest. Oh that was over the Grove Theatre. No, it had been about myself as a person. Well, he hadn't said any such thing. (S. - Head of Upper School, was present at this meeting.) When I told a group in the staffroom what had been said, they thought it was a stupid joke on my part.

Over the weekend I phoned V. (from County Education Office). He told me he thought the head had a strong case. It wasn't worth fighting him. I also wrote to the union regional official. On the Monday I approached H., Head of English, to ask if he had agreed to take over drama without my being in any way consulted about it. Yes, he had. Didn't he think he had an obligation to discuss it with me first? No.

In answer to my letter to the NUT, the then regional official called on me. He couldn't believe some of the stories I told him about events at The Grove, but still advised me to move on, for the sake of my career. The autonomy of head-teachers was a principle worth preserving, surely I could see that. Would I think it over and let him know what I wanted the union to do? The next day I wrote again to say it would be absurd to accept the position. It was important that teachers should be prepared to stand up for their rights, and I regarded my job at The Grove to be valid in law. A pause. My letter was being sent to Hamilton House, the HQ of the NUT, for advice. Hamilton House supported the regional official. It was useless trying to fight the headmaster.

I was a member of Rank and File (one of the few organisational voices at the time ready to put the case for the lot of ordinary teachers). I had had an article on the Staff Association printed previously in its magazine of the same name. I wrote now to the editors, enclosing an account of the situation I was facing. A letter back from Barry McColgan, whose wife, Dorothy, was still involved in similar troubles in London. I went down to see them and came back for the first time with a clear idea about how to start fighting. I wrote again to the NUT insisting my case be put to counsel. If the union wouldn't, I would - at my own expense. A long hush. Then a note to say that someone from the legal department at Hamilton House would call on me at The Grove to take notes about my position. These notes would be put to counsel. Two people came at the beginning of June.

In the meantime Theatre Week had come and gone. I had no direct contact with B. It was now a different kind of fight. A temporary teacher was also a freelance radio reporter; she'd heard discussions and argument in the staffroom about Macbeth, and the way I was directing it. She approached me to see if I would be interested in doing a radio interview on drama, preferably with some of the children from the school to be part of the programme. I thought she ought to speak to B. first. She rang him. He refused totally. Nothing that would connect me with the school. She apologised to me, said it would have to be a single-person interview instead, and, because of radio-van difficulties, it would have to be done in the holidays. She would be in touch and I wasn't to think the head's refusal meant the end of it. We both knew it did.

In May, an unsigned Proposed Outline Timetable was put in my pigeon-hole. It confirmed what I'd been told in January, but went further with a list of books I was supposed to work with. They were nearly all outdated play books published in the thirties - L. du Garde Peach's Plays for Stage and Classroom, Castles of England, Festival Plays, Troubadour Plays - obviously chosen to provoke me into anger or leaving. The lists were linked by instructions about how drama was to be conducted, in a language as insulting as could be managed. Furniture not to be damaged; five minutes to be allowed for cooling down; plays could be acted in small scenes after they'd been read round the class.

I wrote a letter to the head and head of English, with a copy for the CEO, to the effect that I found the proposals incompetent, hilarious and insulting to me and the pupils; they showed the need for a drama specialist in the school, and I happened to be one. That night I typed out copies of the syllabus, pasted one of them on a sheet of paper, headed it COMPREHENSIVE 1970, added a copy of my letter to B., scribbled notes at the side to point out the proposals meant a return to me to my first year of teaching in 1953, and finished with four lines of doggerel:

there once was a naughty teacher
disloyal and uncouth
because he couldn't keep his trap shut
he had his drama cut off

I pinned the whole sheet the following morning on the staff notice board. This was soon taken down on the head's orders by the school secretary. So I made another one that dinner-time and put it up in the first one's place. This stayed up.

 

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