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This from the Bromsgrove Messenger in December 1982, I guess. I do mostly remember this production for the thing the reviewer picked up where we repeated 14 pages of the first act because we got lost. I’m pretty sure I was hamming it up appallingly, and I probably was doing a lot of “face acting” but it seems to have gone down well.
I think it was during rehearsals for this that I had a meeting with the headmaster, who tried to drive any silly ideas about working in theatre out of my little head. “Much better to keep these sorts of things as a hobby.”
I started writing something about what happens if I don’t hit the target or what happens if I exceed the target and it just felt all wrong.
The first one particularly felt like:
- introducing some sort of fake jeopardy to induce people to part with cash;
- writing a risk register (*shudder*);
- just a lie really because I know and you know (if you know me well enough) that I only ever do things that I’d do even if it didn’t raise any money at all and that half the fun is making do with what you’ve got instead of throwing money at problems to make them go away.
So it’s going to happen whatever, but I will be able to spend more time on this project if the pot is fatter and less time if it’s slimmer – simples.
So go ahead, make it fatter
The one thing I do want to avoid is having a conversation with someone that goes “Oh what a shame you didn’t come last month, I had a load of old film that I didn’t know what to do with, so I chucked it out.” So I’m going to get on with this thing as quickly as I can with whatever resources I have.
Today I’ve purchased digitalshoebox.org.uk it points to the campaign page for now, tomorrow it will become the real home of the project!
I’m working on a digitised archive for Bromsgrove (last 48 hrs of crowdfunding) first because it’s a space and time that I have some knowledge of, I know the geography, I know some of the people who were there, I have stories of my own to tell.
But as much value as I think is there (and I think there’s loads) I’m just as interested in this as a learning project that can be replicated in other places. One of the attractions of Bromsgrove is that there’s very little notable about it. Until you start to dig… It’s nowhere special (for that value of special that we’ve developed during the last 100 years) but everywhere is special, everywhere has interesting stories to tell, it’s just more obvious to me what they are for this case.
So what about applying it in more conventionally “interesting” places? One of the most idea-sparking conversations I’ve had about possible next steps (always remembering that we haven’t done the first one yet!) came up yesterday at #altukgc13. I was talking about the importance of standing up for our own home-made media to tell a fuller story than mass media can and Mary McKenna pointed out that while the BBC has loads of archive material about Northern Ireland in the 1970s it’s completely dominated by stuff about the Troubles. And this might be a really neat way of telling more rounded stories about life beyond the ethno-political struggles and violence.
Oh yes. I like that a lot. We’ll do that.
Another important idea in this project is looking at how popular culture really played out from the point of view of ordinary people, rather than from those making mass media. I’ve come to believe that we need to start telling our own stories in our own ways about our own lives, rather than relying on the established media to rehash itself.
I’m thinking mostly of television programmes that purport to tell us what life was like in the Seventies by stringing together clips of television programmes made in the Seventies.
There are two problems with this approach:
1. That by condensing material made for a mass medium all you’re doing is reinforcing an already partial view of society and what we were like.
2. That it is subject to censorship for reasons of political sensitivity (no more TOTP if it contains footage of Jimmy Savile) or the complexity of gaining licensing rights.
3. We all, legitimately, have our own view of what happened in the past and none of us know the whole truth.
My belief is that television was no more representative of what was really happening then than it is now. Except now we can make and share our own media cheaply and easily and then it was hard and expensive.
I’m not just interested in collecting and sharing this material because of the nostalgic fuzz, as delightful as that can be.
This project is also about allowing us to say: “This is how we were, we had a life and a point of view that was influenced by dominant pop cultures and media but was also something we made ourselves.”
Now this feels weird.
It started with a tweet, like so many things in my life today.
And of course a bit of banter arose and a hashtag was suggested #LloydDavis4MP but then I started to talk to other people about it and realised that they were taking the proposition seriously, being encouraging saying things like “Oh yes, I think that would be marvellous” So I’m writing about it here so that I’m quite sure that I’m not being blindly selective and only telling people who I know would be supportive but also to better understand what I might do next.
Because I’m up for it, I think. It fits very well with making social art and building community, which is what I (and others) see myself doing. I’m just not sure how.
I see our current national political system suffering from similar issues to those faced by other large organisations – that large-scale centralised bureaucracies do some things extremely efficiently but mostly at the cost of the people who are supposed to be served by them as well as the people who spend their time trying to run them. I think that working out what it might mean to run this country (or any country) in the next century is something worth putting time and energy into.
The expenses row shows just how vulnerable the system is to abuse of trust. I’m quite sure, from the gobsmacked faces and embarrassed shuffling that most MPs considered they were playing the game as it’s supposed to be played and that from their perspective, the goalposts have been moved. Yes, they knew it was probably wrong, but everyone seemed to be doing it and it’s easy in that situation to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Very easy, that is, if the only people you talk to about it are other people who are engaged in the same activity.
So there’s a choice for those of us who see that change is needed. I could write about this over and over and work out what I think and tell other people what they should do or should believe and engage in endless conversations about policy and designing a better system, or I could say, y’know what, I don’t think it’s possible to stand outside a human system and tinker with it, design a desirable future state and then implement it – that’s the process that got us into this mess and innumerable messes before. I think we have to participate in our democracy in a much more active way.
Which brings me to our current parties. I joined the Labour Party in 1983, soon after the second Thatcher election victory. It felt like a grim time. I was a 1 in 10, a number on a list. The economic base that most people at that time had believed would be with us forever, manufacturing industry, was being swept away, restructured or sold off. I instinctively disliked the hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative style of the Tory party under Thatcher – I preferred the being hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative in my *own* way, and on the side of people more like my family and friends, so I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (which for those unacquainted with the history of such things, means what the press at the time dubbed “The Militant Tendency” though that wasn’t what I thought I was getting into at the time). And then throughout the 1980s I took part in political activity that didn’t work. At a local and national level, we lost again and again. I wasn’t forced out of the party over Clause IV or for being a member of a party within a party or anything like that, the reality was that when my son was born in 1991, I had just been made redundant and I needed to spend more time on caring for my own family than fighting for others. I have voted in every election I’ve been entitled to and on each occasion I’ve voted Labour or spoiled the ballot paper where there was no Labour candidate. And perversely I’ve always lived in Conservative constituencies – the only time that the candidate I voted for has won has been in District Council and European elections. But now I’m done with combat and dogma of whatever flavour and you should judge me on what I do and say today, not the things I went through on the way.
And now I feel quite distanced from any of the parties. They don’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. They seem to be still trying to play the same game and the game has become more important than the original function.
Those of you who’ve seen me at Tuttle will, I hope, have seen me being of service to the group, to the community. The more that I’ve done that, the more I’ve let go of trying to run it, or make it go in a particular direction, the more successful it has been and the more I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’d like the opportunity to try that out on a grander scale. And representing local people at a national level seems where there’s most improvement to be made.
We’re all quite exercised about how public servants should act with integrity and honesty – my definition of integrity is simple – you do what you say on the tin – you are open and clear about the principles that you apply when making decisions and you do what you said you’d do.
So the idea of standing as an independent candidate is quite appealing, running on a ticket of integrity and true service. And I’m attracted to serving Bromsgrove because I lived there, I know and love the town and because they seem to have had a rough deal with MPs for a while. I’m open though to doing something elsewhere or accepting that I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and should just get on with something else.
And of course, I have some interesting ideas about how my knowledge of the use of the social web could support both a campaign and the day-to-day business of being a sitting MP.
I’m very interested in what others think on this. Are there qualities that you think I’m lacking? Can you see a more suitable way for me to contribute to this issue?