dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Panel Discussion

I was on a panel for the Arts Alliance back in March, hosted by Tim Robertson (above), Chief Executive for The Koestler Trust, in the Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool. To my relief and delight I was alongside author and prison education extraordinaire Pat Lemsatef who I got to know back in 2007. I couldn’t have read the script back then that I would be speaking alongside her in the future. I give her full credit for my first ‘career earnings’ from writing.

Also alongside was best-selling author and poet John Siddique. He confidently assumed a central seat. He surprised people in the room by saying he was against self-expression in some respects, admitting that he wasn’t too fond of any old wannabe artist “squirting their smallness all over him.” This comment had me fighting off the giggles which I couldn’t afford to let consume me. That’s the thing with giggles though – they are only giggles if people are looking and you shouldn’t be laughing*. Afterwards, John and I had a private conversation, and it was the most I have ever engaged with a professional writer. I'm pleased to report that we both refrained from squirting our smallness all over each other!

My heart was beating so much when it was almost my turn to speak that I thought it was visible through my shirt. I wished I had worn a T-shirt underneath. I was sure they could see it thumping away. Taking deep breaths didn’t help. It was out of control. This was only my second ever public speaking engagement about writing, and the 1st one had been over a year ago. But once the ball got rolling it was okay, and I remembered saying something along the lines of “Art is the difference between getting up in the morning and rolling back over.” I thought this one dreary morning after a ruff ole night and the idea really resonated with me, but I never made a mental note to say it in the future. It just came out live, from memory, on the spur.

A Cambridge student in the audience, Daniella Elson-Drummond, has agreed to quote this line from me to open her thesis with. I feel like I have flicked a chink of my soul out there and she has caught it in her little skilled hand. Great, great stuff. Subsequently, completing the questionnaire she has since devised for me as part of her studies was a unique opportunity to write about myself in an open, informative fashion. It was once suggested by a medical professional that I figure in some university studies, when I was a teenager, and I declined. Not this time, baby.

Also in the audience to ease my nerves were Sarah Grainger-Jones and Catherine Chamberlain, who have both helped me within the Koestler. And I must say that it was a real booster to see playwright Dean Stalham present, of Art Saves Lives, because Art Really Does Save Lives.

I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet, because I need another couple of inches to do that, or a rib removed, heehee – no, the object of this post, the hidden gem, is apparent below. You see, the pretty young lady standing in the bottom photo (who just so happened to be Pat Lemsatef’s daughter) is asking a question which is then addressed onto me, and I was too busy with my camera to fully absorb it all. I therefore had to pretend like I had heard the whole question and not just the last bit and give a half-assed answer in return. I nearly had slimy undercooked egg on my face and I felt like a right drill bit. I was so busy taking back some of the experience via my turdy antique camera that it almost backfired. Lesson learned.

l The moral of this post then is to just enjoy some opportunities. Too often these days we are recording things with our phones and cameras, and we are in danger of missing the woods for the trees. We are like dogs peeing on every lamp post on the block. Some things need to be savoured, without pictures, without tweets, without distractions. Some moments demand our rapt, undivided attention, because they don’t last long, and they are easy to miss l

Take nothing but memories. Kill nothing but time. Leave nothing but footprints.

*Giggles are living. Giggles are life. I can't wait for the next set. Let them erupt, let them rip, because that's all we have, our laughs and our cries.

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