Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Last night, I went to see The Book in my Head is now on the Page, a collaborative performance piece by Matt Bellwood and A Quiet Word. The piece is set and performed in the beautiful surroundings of The Leeds Library, on Commercial Street.
The audience were greeted at the doorway by a mysterious man in a strange wig. "Trick or stunt?" he asked us, jiggling ping-pong balls around in his pocket. Bouncing them off the tiles, he threw them up in the air, then caught them in his mouth - all four of them. "Did you know that the Leeds Library was first started by King Olaf with three pieces of wood in 1485?" he said, waving us inside.
Librarians checked us in at the doorway. "We are lucky to have such creative minds with us tonight," they said, stamping us in. They gave us each a book and a coloured ribbon. A trio of beautiful maidens, dressed in black, tied the ribbons around our wrists. "You are all such talented and important authors," they said. "But is one of the pages from your book missing?"
A young man on the stairs, introducing us to the history of the building, ushered us into the reading room. The smell of old books greeted us as the head librarian, an eccentric woman in horn-rimmed glasses and hot pink lipstick, told us about the importance of her work. "I am custodian of the words," she said. "Without my care, they would be forgotten!" Overcome with passion for her job, she crawled away on all fours, climbing the stacks and stroking the books with desperate hands. "Save the library!" she cried, with ever-more impassioned cries. "Save the library! Save the library!"
Onwards, and a man sat in a darkened room, waiting to tell the visitors tiny tales of the city. Sitting in a semi-circle around a map, the participants listened, enraptured, as he read short tales of overheard conversation, and arguments in the chip shop.
As our experience drew to an end, we were invited to find, amongst the shelves, the missing page from our book. On the balcony of the back room, we searched amongst the shelves for odd pages sticking out into the air; voices, telling tales, whispered from hidden places behind the books as we went on the hunt for the final page.
Absorbing, witty, and very imaginative, The Book in my Head is now on the Page sent me out into the night thinking seriously about some of the questions it asked. By drawing the 'audience' in very adeptly to be 'participants' - but never in an uncomfortable way - it makes attendees think about the nature of creativity. It makes the audience think about whether they see themselves as creative people, and about the value of their own creative efforts; and what inspiration they can gain from the everyday.
The Book in my Head is now on the Page will be shown again in the evening of Monday 28th November at The Leeds Library. Performances are about 20 minutes long and run every 15 minutes from 7pm until 8.30. To book a place call The Leeds Library on 0113 245 3071.
Tim Binding The Champion
Best American Short Stories (1993) Various - Edited by Tobias Wolff
Monday, 14 November 2011
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Christiania - Free Town is a small section of Copenhagen, not far from the city centre.
The community was established in 1971, when a group of well-organised anarchists moved into a set of disused army barrack buildings. Today, 40 years later, members of the original community - as well as 'incomers' from later generations - are still there.
Anarchy is often misunderstood. Many people perceive anarchists to be dangerous individualists who want to do whatever they want, to please themselves, all the time. That's not necessarily the case. Behind anarchism is a principle of personal responsibility: everybody has to take responsibility for his or her actions, and has responsibility, too, to the people they live with. Anarchists resist the interference of state and corporate institutions. In any society, even an anarchistic one, you still have responsibility, and Christiania operates under simple 'common law': No private cars, no weapons, no hard drugs, and no violence.
The whole area, miraculously, has managed to avoid gentrification. Around the lake are a myriad of amazing self-built houses, made from mis-matching window frames, pieces of wood, and tile. Some are better built than others. Along with resistance to state interference comes greater reliance on the self, and not every anarchist can be a great builder. Take a few steps away from the more 'notorious' parts of Christiania - and you will find something interesting and beautiful.