On Theatre, Socialism and Projectile Vomiting (Meet The Humans #5, feat. Christina Poulton)

 [Part of Meet The Humans, a series of blogs investigating how artists and programmers in the theatre industry can talk to each other without anyone screaming or crying. Supported by Unlimited. Christina’s views are her own, and not necessarily those of Strike A Light]

1

“The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all cooperate and see to it that every-one does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that no one could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system. Yet the fact that we have got to face is that Socialism is not establishing itself. Instead of going forward, the cause of Socialism is visibly going back.”

– George Orwell, The Road To Wigan Pier.

 

2

 

Back in February, the night before the last date of a tour of community venues in North Kirklees, I fell violently ill. I vomited nine times in the night, first food, then bile, then blood. I couldn’t even keep water down. I called 111, crawled into an overnight care centre at 5am, was given anti-emmetics and sent on to A&E. When I got there, I was told the wait time was approximately seven hours. My performance was in seven hours. So I had a choice: use the last 1% of my phone’s battery life to call up the venue and team to cancel, or go back to my digs, try and bag a quick nap and head out for the getin. I chose the latter. I’d like to say that chief among my motivations were lofty concerns, like high professional standards that condemn cancellation on principle, a will not to let the creative team down, a concern for the audiences that were banking on me to provide them with art and entertainment. In reality, my main concern was that cancellation would make the programmers of the tour not want to book me again. And this was a REALLY good gig.

Given its sudden onset, I was convinced that I had food poisoning, and thus wasn’t infectious. I was wrong. Both of the other artists on the tour later told me they caught whatever gastrointestinal bug I had the next day. Given the 100% infection rate among my team, how many of the 50 or so audience members gathered caught it? How many days of productivity were lost, how many others infected, how many more hours added to A&E wait times? What if I’d popped during the show? What if the fatigue made me crash my car on the way back to my digs? You’d think I’d be the only person in my peer group of theatre makers with a did-a-show-between-bouts-of-projectile-vomiting story. But I’m not. By any logical appraisal, both me and this unnamed peer should’ve called to cancel. Why didn’t we?

 

3

 

The world is in crisis. The postwar liberal-capitalist orthodoxy, for all its staying power, is falling slowly apart, and there is no clear contender for its replacement. Inequality is soaring with the sea levels. The ever-present threat of nuclear apocalypse stalks us as brittle, toxic apes head up the global superpowers. At home, the NHS flails and suffocates with underfunding, millions of children live in poverty, the streets of London are flooded with stabbings. In my own hometown, and on the culture front, a venue that was the heart of the indie theatre world for seven years has closed for ever. We are on a raft floating through space. Who gives a flying fuck if some small-scale theatre makers don’t feel they’re getting their emails answered enough?

4

 

Last week I was heading through the Gloucester docks at night to catch the last train home. I’d just been talking with Christina Poulton from Strike A Light (info on them is in this document. Info on everyone in this blog series is in it in fact. I probably should’ve packed it in the day I found out about it. But here I am.). I was walking past the towering warehouses that 150 years ago took in corn from the banks of the Danube, timber from the Baltic, and shipped out good old English salt to ports around the world. Now it’s mostly chain restaurants. I was feeling sad. Christina had taken an hour out of an incredibly hectic festival schedule to talk with me, and our conversation was illuminating, and then they comped me for an excellent show, but I still felt melancholic. With these blogs I’ve tried to stimulate a debate with the programmers I’ve talked to, along the lines of “small-scale touring is fucked, what are we going to do about it?”. Given that I kind of sprung this argument on the unsuspecting interviewees, their responses were admirably thoughtful, and largely in agreement that there was a problem. As someone who spends about half her week when she’s not with Strike A Light working as an independent producer, Christina backs up my diagnosis: “runs are getting shorter and shorter, which means the opportunity to engage audiences in unusual work is being reduced…you might be one of only two or three small-scale shows an arts centre books in an entire season”. But her suggestions for treatment are where we enter an interesting disagreement.

“We live in an extremely corporate world, and the arts industry in the UK is largely sheltered from that”. She argues that, if anything, people in this industry don’t think enough in business terms. There is an unavoidable element of salesmanship in pitching a show, and if artists aren’t clear and targeted, giving the venues some sense of how they can sell their show to the public, the level of response they get is likely to suffer. “If I set up a florist tomorrow and no-one bought my flowers, I would close the shop and be sad, but I wouldn’t be out saying ‘you SHOULD be buying my flowers’”. When the above document full of venue info came out, Christina’s inbox was flooded with emails asking her to book shows. Clearly many artists had trawled the document for email addresses, copied them out and fired off speculative tour packs, without doing any research on what Strike A Light was about or whether their show would fit with their programme. She replied to each of them, even though this led to her staying late in the office several nights. The word “entitled” came up, not for the first time in my conversations with venues. Artists expect venues to fit their world around them, rather than the public they are supposed to be serving. And then she says something that, through no fault of her own, hits me right in the neuroses – “I don’t know how many genuinely artistically brilliant artists there are out there that don’t get programmed.” There’s so much I wanted to discuss about this statement with her. But she needed to help with front of house. And then, understandably, as it was near the end of the festival, to go home and sleep.

 

5

 

Dinner table conversation at my parents’ house last week:

 

MUM: So you’re rehearsing the new show for four weeks?

 

ME: Yep, and working with maybe eight other people.

 

MUM: And you’re only doing three performances?

 

ME: Yeah. Maybe four.

 

MUM: That seems bit of a waste.

 

ME: It is. There might be more next year, but who knows?

 

MUM: Your job is a mystery to me, Jack.

 

ME: Yeah, me too.

 

6

 

I’m white. I’m male. I’m middle class. I’m highly educated. I have a disability and some sporadic mental health issues, but neither impair my day-to-day functioning in any major way. I’ve been lucky enough to be a theatre maker full time for four years now. I have close to every possible conceivable advantage that could be handed to someone. Am I just bitching? Do I just have inadequate product and/or sales technique? Do I just suck? Has no-one had the confidence to tell me that yet? Am I doing that thing that socialists always get accused of, pinning their personal inadequacies on an imagined social problem? A sort of “I can’t get laid because of the Patriarchy” whiny passive-aggression? Should I quit? Maybe it’s not just when I have nasty viruses that me doing shows is a net loss to society. Maybe I’m projectile vomiting my self-indulgence on every stage I’m on, taking up funding, space and audience attention that could be better directed somewhere else.

 

7

 

When I get on the train at Gloucester station, there’s an email from Christina. Instead of eating or sleeping like she should be, she’s sent a long email full of ideas on how to improve the theatre touring world. She’s clearly a lovely person. Everyone I’ve met making this blog is a lovely person. That’s why talking about this shitty system is so hard.

 

8

 

Here’s what I believe:

 

– Every time someone comes to see a piece of theatre, it is an exercise in trust. It might be their first theatre show altogether, or their first time seeing something devised, their first time in a studio. If it isn’t, they may yet still be in a place where they can get put off these things for life. They may have invested a proportionally large amount of their income in the ticket, travelled a long way, navigated difficult parking or public transit. Theatre is a live medium, so on some level they have invested in the show without really knowing what it is going to be like.

 

– Venues (I include producing organisations in this) are the guardians of this trust. For better or worse, they are the ones in our system who have the resources and skills to reach out to audiences, and when they do, it has to be with something that they find trustworthy.

 

– As it stands, with some small exceptions, there is no organised system for theatre programming that is open to all. Instead there is an informal, network-based market, with no standardised rules. The problem is, artists are generally crap salesmen. Or, at least, quality of salesmanship and networking ability has no guaranteed correlation to quality of art. It also creates an inherent incumbency bias that is potentially disastrous for diversity: if white, middle class people book someone they know, chances are it’s going to be another middle class white person. Venues are completely within their rights to not programme something they haven’t themselves seen live. But the only place they gather in any significant numbers to do this is in the nightmarish overcrowded artistic Hades that is the Edinburgh Fringe, where access to this market might cost you £10,000 a pop. Artists unwilling to do that are likely to barrage venues with waffly tour packs, grainy videos, invites to shows miles away from them and earnestly irritating follow-ups (“just checking you got this?”). Venues rarely have the spare capacity to filter through this stuff, or to go and see things outside of the Fringe. This means either working overtime like Christina does or just ignoring it. In the face of enough of the latter you’d think artists would change tack. But artists are desperate. Getting or not getting a gig can swing a tour plan, which can swing a funding application, which can decide whether or not they are employed for several months. We don’t even cancel when we’re walking chunder-vesuviuses for fear of losing a future gig. We’re not going to stop sending unsolicited emails. The ensuing breakdown in communication leads to confusion, hostility, and cyclically, to worse communication.

 

– Venues don’t owe artists anything. Not gigs, not money, not even necessarily a reply to an email. To assume otherwise is entitlement.

 

– Artists don’t owe venues anything. Not unpaid time, not putting their own health second, not even to personally care about the venue and its mission. To assume otherwise is a different kind of entitlement.

 

– We both owe everything to the public. The people that fund us, directly or indirectly. The people who we all do it for. The people whose trust is placed in us. The Arts Council’s moniker is Great Art For Everyone. I actually think that’s a wonderful goal. It’s also, I’d say, a socialist one. We can’t accomplish that goal if we don’t fairly, democratically and transparently decide on what Great Art is, and we can’t make it For Everyone if we waste our energies on this flimsy, nepotistic pseudo-marketplace of theatre shows.

 

9

 

Here are some possible solutions that me and Christina came up with (although not necessarily agreed on), in descending order of how actually useful I think they would be.

 

a)  The Arts Council pay the best artists salaries to make art. It commissions the best producing organisations to make sure their work (shows, workshops, whatever) gets in front of the right audience in the right way at the right time. We work together to give the public what they want and deserve, and no-one has to harass anyone. And we can all take sick days when our holes are exploding without fear of penury.

 

b) A new set of annual theatre festivals, one in each Arts Council region, that are open to apply to anyone. A jury of the public goes through applications, whittling them down to maybe 100 per festival on set published criteria, with equal opps monitoring. The artists are paid and given accommodation. A new organisation manages the festival, promotes it to the public and handles the technical and production. A venue delegation comes by for two weeks of it, and shows are scheduled in such a way that they can see everything. The festival goes to different cities each year, like the Olympics without the White Elephant stadiums. I reckon this’d cost the Arts Council about £5m a year to do nationwide, or less than one new foyer (Credit due to Simon Day, who kind of came up with this idea in his blog).  But even if it was completely unfunded and just free to enter it would be vastly cheaper than the current Fringe.

 

c)  Venues adopt a job-interview-like process for each season they programme, advertising exactly what they want, holding showcase-interviews and picking the most appropriate candidates, again with equal opps monitoring. They could club together to make this more efficient. Artists asking for a gig outside this process would be like in the 90s when you went around shops in town dropping off copies of your cv speculatively – nobody would do it anymore.

 

d) Venues use, and perhaps share, a “programming@” email address with an out-of-office that explains how and when they programme, giving whatever response time is realistic for them (even if its three months, at least then its clear). If artists send the wrong info, or don’t wait long enough, or try and get programmed by chumming it up with a specific staff member instead, they are hit with sticks.

 

Whether you agree with any of these, we have to have this debate. That involves getting away from the pervasive myth of the arts that we all agree on everything. It means being honest and open and willing to change, whatever side of the divide you’re on. And when we reach consensus, we need to take action, not just complain about how bad it is. We are on a raft sailing through space. None of it ultimately matters. But this is our industry, our patch of the raft and we know we can do better. We are the creative ones, the ones who understand the transformative power of art, if we can’t fix this problem, who the hell is going to fix anything?

 

As an artist, I’m going to keep making the best stuff I can, and try and not let the desperation push me into doing more harm than good. Together, we can win, even if socialism doesn’t. Yet.

 

[Addendum: the Arts Council is currently holding an online public consultation on what it should do from 2020-30. If you agree with the above, or have your own ideas, why not go here and tell them about it?]

 

 

 

ARTS JARGON BINGO!

THE RULES

  • 10 points a word, 150 Points for a vertical or horizontal line,  200 Points for a diagonal
  • Any variant of the word still counts, so “emerging” also gets crossed off for “emerge”, “emerged”, “emergent”, “emergionus”, etc.
  • On getting a line, winner must stand up, raise up his or her card and shout “OH FUCKING HELL, WHAT IS EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT!”, turn over a table and run our the room sobbing

Good for conferences, meetings, artistic statements, organisation websites, wherever.  Suggestions for Round 2 welcome in the comments.

Download the  full sheet here and get Jargonizing!

 

6 Things To Remember When Dating An Artist Person

[Written in response to articles like this, this and this.]

  1. They are not normal.

It’s important to remember that artistic people are genetically different to us “normies”. They perceive the world in a fundamentally way, like people who have been in brain-damaging accidents, or dogs. If you don’t get quirky, eloquent and engaged response to questions like “what would you like for tea?”, there’s probably something wrong.

2. They need to be alone

GIVE YOUR ARTIST SOME SPACE. Leave them in a room. Lock the door to the room. Roll a slice of ham under the doorway periodically, but in a non-intrusive way. Delete their social media accounts and file a missing persons report with your local police.  This will really help them create, and they’ll love you for it.

3. They need to not be alone

Artists don’t communicate in the way we do. Don’t listen to the words that they’re saying, listen to the feelings beneath them. Artists are constantly volatile and passionate, and they always experience emotions on a more deep level than you, like Deanna Troi from Star Trek, or a dog. If they are not bringing these to the surface then something is wrong.

4. They’re meant to be unhappy

Allow your artist to throw expensive electrical goods across the room. Make sure you get laminate or tiled floors for the fortnightlyish occasions when they smear a mix of tears, acrylic paint and faeces around the place. Sobbing uncontrollably into the eviscerated cushions of your sofa is just a normal day in the office to an artist. Don’t attach medical labels to their esoteric and mystical creative process. Expect anniversary presents to include a dead fox from the garden, amateurishly taxidermized and wearing a mask of your face, or a drawing of God being sad on a stained Nando’s napkin.

5. They never, ever, EVER STOP

EVER. All artists want to do is work, and then talk about their work, and then work some more. They despise breaks and holidays because it gets them away from their job, which doesn’t really stress them out because it isn’t really a job. Make sure they’re checking their emails at 4am and giving business cards out at funerals.  Ask them about what they’re working on at the moment. If they say nothing or very little, FREAK OUT. Hit them with sticks. They are not being artisty enough. They don’t have a work life balance because their work is their life, like a Necromancer or a Superhero or a Police Dog.

6. They don’t understand grown-up stuff

All artists are massive children, so don’t expect them to comprehend basic adult tasks like scheduling events,  following rules and adding up money. After all, these are people who have voluntarily chosen a career that pays poverty wages, rather than something sensible. This is because they are intensely self-centred, and would rather draw attention to themselves than do jobs that make a social contribution, like Finance or Property Management. Allow them to move out of their extended adolescence in which they value human creativity more than the ability to gain home equity in their own time. They’ll get there. Remember that their charming child-brains are why you’ve taken them in, like a malnourished orphan chimney-sweep stranded in a snowdrift, or a dog. And with your love and support, they can blossom into a fully formed adult with a real job.

You can’t date Jack Dean, but if you come to one of his shows, download one of his albums or buy one of his books, he’ll do his darnedest to set you up with one of his most artisty artist colleagues.

Never Tell Me The Odds: Wars In The Stars And Elsewhere

Dear Farid,

I hope this finds you as well as it can. I have given you the name Farid because it is ranked at the top of the list of Syrian names at the highly rigorous peer reviewed source of e-babynames.com. I imagine the odds of this really being your name are miniscule, probably less than 0.1%.

I have just now bought what Unicef tells me will be Hats And Gloves For you and Three Other Syrian Children. This cost £12, which makes an average of £1.50 per hat or pair of gloves. I hope this doesn’t mean they’re like the shitty ones I got from Primark last week that got holes in on the first day of use and then torn to bits by the dog. In reality I know this is not how charities work. It is a neatly packaged product that allows them to make donors feel like they are doing something concrete, as well as potentially scamming their way out of buying a friend a proper christmas present, both of which were driving factors in my decision. In reality, Unicef spends 2% of its donations on administration, 24% on fundraising and lord knows how much flying about the world chucking woolen goods at people. These are the practical realities of any large scale operation, but you can’t tell that to people like me in the west. We’ll just piss it all away on the Donkey Sanctuary instead.

Because I am a UK taxpayer, my government will top up my donation by 25%. Tomorrow night, however, they are planning to pass legislation to drop bombs on your country. Yeah, it is kind of the mother of all mixed messages, I know. There is some talk that there will be a rebellion amongst enough MPs to overturn the government’s plans. I don’t know what the odds of that are. 10%? The government is confident that bombs will only hit the bad guys. They acknowledge there is a chance that they won’t, but they don’t say what that chance is. This is probably academic to you anyway, as Russian, French and American bombs are already pouring over the streets you used to play in. Ours will be a drop in the ocean.

I like to think you are safely out of Syria, and planning to come to the UK. I like to think you have relatives here, and are using all the minutes you get on the camp’s computer to find out things about our culture and history. Here’s some key pointers from me:

  • Greggs do a £1 pizza slice at lunch that isn’t as terrible as it looks.
  • The Queen owns all swans, but they’re vicious bastards anyway so stay away from them.
  • Steven Fry is a sort of secular Arch-Wizard who you treat like your uncle.
  • The weather is inadequate at all times.
  • John Lewis is a man who makes people cry at Christmas so they’ll buy his things.
  • Bond movies were good, then bad, then ok, then terrible, and are now good again.

I like to think that this hat will mark a new era of health, safety and happiness in you and your family’s life. That you’ll be handed strange-coloured ones from the bottom of the box, and you and your mates will be the Orange Hat Gang. This will bind you together and start a lifelong friendship, and when you reach the UK, you will start an acappella group together at Uni and win Britain’s Got Talent and tour the world. Your message of peace and tight-knit four part harmonies will inspire people to rebuild the cities we have destroyed, and in Palmyra Airport they’ll build four statues to you that tourists drunk off Duty Free will climb up and take wobbly selfies on.

What are the odds of this? Equal to me winning the lottery ten times, only to have each ticket vapourised by a lightning bolt? Equal to me becoming Champion of All Sports 2016? Equal to finding a single drop in the ocean?  More importantly, what are the odds I want these things to happen because I genuinely care for someone I’ve never met, versus the odds that I want my donation to be meaningful, and to have something to write about in my blog? 50/50?

I don’t know the truth, I only know the numbers, and not even many of those. I know that if you choose to cross the mediterranean there is at least a 1.6% chance you won’t survive it. I know that out of all the Syrian refugees odds of you legally gaining asylum in the UK are less than 0.5%. I know there is no place where the chance of violence following you is 0%. I know that in light of the over £600 million Unicef is looking to raise, this is a drop in the ocean.

There’s another key piece of Western culture, Star Wars Episode IV,  where the characters are sailing through a sea of jagged rocks in space. The camp tin-man, who’s a bit smug about facts, says “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately three thousand, seven hundred twenty to one.” To which the captain replies “never tell me the odds”.

Never let them tell you the odds, Farid. You are not a drop in the ocean. You are not a lottery ticket in a lightning storm. You will make it. With or without a hat.

UNICEF website.

4 Tips For Aspiring Performance Writers

  1. Use a social media manager like Hootsuite to schedule updates to your pages. This is a huge timesaver and means that marketing is still getting done while you’re out of the office.
  2. Keep hold of all your receipts. You’d be suprised at the breadth of what is deductible for tax purposes.
  3. Write. Write good stuff. Write terrible stuff. Write mediocre stuff. Get furious at what you write. Roll a huge boulder up a hill and down again. Send emails that get ignored. Make calls that are put on hold. Get the small letter from the Arts Council. Contemplate murder. Roll that boulder. Have awkward conversations with family members. Have awkward conversations with artists that are more successful than you. Have awkward conversations with artists that are less successful than you. Get the big letter from the Arts Council.  Write. Miss deadlines. Miss social events. Miss your friend’s wedding in a beautiful church in the Irish countryside because you’re in the back of a karaoke bar in Edinburgh shouting at three strangers at 11:30am on weekdays for three weeks. Masturbate excessively. Cry excessively. Fall apart when people make fair constructive criticisms. Fuck up the technical cues. Lug massive bags around until your head tilts forward like Quasimodo. This will facilitate you rolling that boulder up the hill. Spend too much time around the house. Try and buy one that doesn’t have damp and broken doors. Apply for a mortgage. Get rejected. Apply again. Get rejected. Apply again. End up in a bizarre situation where an underwriter asks you why you chose to go self-employed last year. Struggle for an answer. Give up. Get another small letter from the Arts Council. Insufficient Artistic Vision. Roll a huge fucking boulder up Everest in a blizzard with no oxygen mask. Take money from your parents. Feel like a massive waste of taxpayers money / parents money / air. Spend too much time on Facebook. See friends posting pictures of their babies. Freak out about never being able to afford one. Pretend to ignore barbed comments from girlfriend’s work colleagues about “proper jobs” and “being a provider”. Take more money from your parents. Stop writing.

    Go for a walk. Get lost in the woods. Realise that things are not that bad. You are not a Syrian refugee. You do not have cancer of the oesophagus. Plan new social events. Start writing again, even if it’s only stuff about writing, which is a cop out but a start. Go to interviews. Turn up late. Park in inappropriate places. Get Penalty Notices. Learn to live with it. Resubmit. Tidy the house. Celebrate small triumphs. Plan for the future. Accept that most plans are bullshit. Get more rejections. Fuck up more technical cues. Roll a boulder up a hill. Notice that the view from the top of the hill is quite beautiful. Give your boulder a quirky name and decorate it with murals of your hometown. Learn to love your boulder. Swear loudly as it rolls down the hill again. Go get some lunch. It can wait.

  4. Mailchimp is great for newsletters. Really can’t stress that enough, guys.

Jack will be rolling his boulder into London on the 13th-15th of October. You can get tickets and info here.

Imma Let You British: why are the English so weird about hip hop?

When I was a teenager, I rapped in a band. This, to me, was not a massive deal. In the same way that punk and indie bands had inspired my peers to pick up guitars and drumsets, the music of my childhood, from Outkast to Jurassic 5 to Rage Against The Machine to Jay-Z, made me want to pick up a mic. To some of the people I was at school with though, this event was clearly on a parallel with a meteor strike, rain of frogs or double rainbow in the reaction it warranted. I was shouted at in corridors. I was instructed to rap on the spot by people I’d never met, whose voices had a level of disbelief as if I was going around telling people I could shit fireworks and sneeze unicorns. Most unnervingly and confusingly, someone anonymously put a picture of my head on a clipart, that’s right, a clipart, of a rapper’s body, replete with giant chain and backwards baseball cap, on the common room’s notice board. There are no teacher guidelines for rapper-clipart-related abuse. I don’t really blame them for doing nothing.

This is bullying, and it happens to a lot of people. I mention it not to grind my teeth about it, but as the personal base of experience to venture an opinion about the British and hip hop culture – we don’t know how to feel about it.

Kanye West is not the first Glastonbury headliner to garner mass disapproval, as this article by the List points out, but it is telling that two of the other three it mentions (Jay-Z and Beyonce) are broadly describable as hip hop artists. I’ve not been a massive fan of Kanye since his Graduation days, but  a petition almost the size of the festivals mammoth attendance itself to prevent his booking at the festival is a significant event. What gets these people so riled up that, rather than just not go to an event with someone they don’t like in it, they will adopt it as a social justice cause? What is it about hip hop that gets people in such a huff?

Part of it, I believe, is unavoidably class snobbery. Hip hop’s support base and roots in working class culture, which have broadly transposed to the UK, makes it subject to the lazy, demonizing stereotype of the Chav, the low-income, uneducated cultureless man that the architect of Kanye’s stage-crashing incident Lee Nelson has built a flailing comedy career out of embodying. Many believe this act to be just (but somewhat late and unasked-for?) revenge for Kanye’s storming of the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance of a VMA award in 2009.

pastedGraphic.pdf

But, however inappropriate, the latter was done in seemingly spontaneous and passionate support of Beyonce’s zeitgeist-setting music video. But Nelson, and supporters of him and the petition, seem not to stand for anything, but merely against a culture they see not just as something outside their tastes, but as a direct affront to their cultural and social values. Stereotypes about hip hop and its fans in our country run deep, reinforced by decades of dubious media representation. Much in the way that Kazakhstan might never shake the reputation Baron Cohen’s Borat has given it amongst those who don’t really understand his irony, I have met literally hundreds of people who, when talking about hip hop, can’t restrain themselves from doing the Ali-G crossed-W-hands gesture like someone involuntarily doing crap sign language alongside their speech.

Another part of it is simply a cultural disconnection. Speaking in very simplified terms ,while the US, France, Germany and many other places experienced a chart breakthrough of hip hop artists in the “Golden Age” of the early 90s, hip hop never broke through into the mainstream in the UK to the same extent, dwarfed by the shadow of autochthonous genres like brit-pop, house and drum and bass. Though there was then, and is now, a busy underground scene, occasionally bubbling up into the limelight when a teacher battles his student or a grime MC makes the jump to commercial house, hip hop to many is simply an american genre, and thus putting a hip hop artist in the spotlight is an act of cultural imperialism against our proud musical heritage. And yet, there is great demand for the music, leading to the bizarre schism between Glastonbury’s promoters, who keep booking popular and bestselling hip hop artists, and “hardcore” Glastonbury fans who refuse to simply go an sit next to another tent for an hour.

pastedGraphic_1.pdf

Hip hop has been traditionally about breaking down barriers,  sampling from a million and one musical sources and styles, connecting people through shared interests that extend beyond music into dance and visual art. But in Britain it seems to often simply put up barriers, or strengthen pre-existing ones around class, culture and race. Can we not find room to tolerate each others’ musical tastes, or do we consign one of them to being, as one friend of a friend on facebook commented “shit karaoke”? Or am I imagining things?

Jack keeps a whole load of shit karaoke on his Music page, and will soon be releasing more.