Let's Recruit New Soldiers

Robert said 'everyone talks about the past, what about now?' That, a Transwoman, a Asian woman covered in spit with a Paki husband ‘The Long Story', & recycling the Whitworth’s William Kentridge installation become the Reno.Live TV show.

In our Whitworth artist team meeting on Tuesday, book designer Robert said: everyone always talks about them selves in the past: but what about now?

We can be a platform now. The one thing that really struck me about the Reno was our tolerance, in a time when it was really intolerant. Anything went in the Reno. People were openly gay. In the 70s! There were pimps, prostitutes. Transsexuals. Weed dealers. Out and out nut jobs!

It is great to look back but what about now?  We are still alive. We can do something major now. Philip Collins Snr was talking about using our space to do a protest. I am so used to talking my story now, you know the one, about getting barred from my rehearsal for having my voice, I have become blazé. You are so used to our monumental feats that you have become blazé too. But when I say either in another environment to other working class people . . . they always rush forward when I stop speaking. I am like a god. ‘You actually said to your white middle class director — I think you are telling the black actors what to think, and you are asking the white actors what they think?’ That I talk with no filter is amazing to them. But it is always the working class, and the minorities. They marvel at my freedom.

I have a platform now. Carried on the shoulders of my army. Who love what we have achieved together. And are patiently waiting for us to get to the next stage, the Whitworth, when they can join us again. Suppose we opened the floodgates.

Up till now, I have, and the Reno 12 has been thinking about the Reno reconstruction in the Whitworth as a tomb. But what if it was live? What if it really was a Reno? A Reno with a difference! What if it was a production studio that gave a platform to all other marginalised voices? Not just us, but all the people who feel marginalised. I’ve even thought of a timetable. We could . . . first, we have to build our Reno to plan. You know, with the walls, and our photos, and our artefacts etc. And we’ll put the tables and chairs in there. But suppose we had from 12, noon, some Reno music to get us in the mood. Then from 1 we did an interview?

This week people have approached me with the most mental stories. Maxine, a transwoman, went to the Reno as Mark. Imagine, like our memoirs, no holds barred we interview Maxine. Then there is Neelam. I was having a cappuccino minding my own business the next thing Neelam, sat at the next table, is telling me her sister calls Neelam’s husband the Paki because he comes from Pakistan whereas they are born here with spit running down their backs in the 80s after their little grocer’s windows are put through. Then there’s L who went to the Reno. Her dad was a bank robber, and she’d have never been born if he hadn’t robbed the IRA. And a Canadian woman who’s dad is Jamaican and mum Irish; and the Asian/Australian woman with the half white jazz singer daughter; and the mixed race girl who was crying when I came off stage, but I was dying to go home from the Migrant Celebration Day, they all promised to come to the Whitworth. And all those ethnic minorities who swarmed in October after I spoke at the Museum ID conference, their tongues clamped with colonial hot irons — let’s offer them water too. Imagine the size of our army in March 2020.

Like The Long Song, BBC mini series about a slave girl, and the final words: ‘all those lost voices. Like Corinne Brammer going into the flames a mystery. Let’s gather more stories and more stories. Not even necessary that they went to the Reno then. They are coming to the Reno now. This is our Reno now. Let’s be inclusive like we were back then when we were excluded. Let’s welcome them all in. Additions to our army!

3 different people said to me this week: you should have a TV show. So we’ll build our Reno.Live with walls, our photos, artefacts, and films. Put in our tables and chairs. After we’ve had an hour’s music to get us in the mood; we’ll do an hour’s interview; then we’ll have an hour’s panel discussion about that story; and then we have an hour’s music. We live-stream the lot. And the person who has told us their story pastes their photo next to ours because they have been to the Reno. Today’s Reno! An A5. Only our photos are A3 and above. 

And the last thing. We will be recycling the William Kentridge installation, the one downstairs in the Whitworth that inspired our installation. And get on this, I love this, William Kentridge was born white in South Africa in 1955. We will be using the wood from an installation by a guy who was born into apartheid, who lived through the apartheid we powerlessly watched on the 1970s news, who’s parents were lawyers to help those crushed by apartheid, the epitome of intolerance to say the least, that no doubt deep in our psyche had a profound effect on us. We will be using his left behind wood to build a Truth and Reconciliation cabin of our own.  

Have a wonderful Xmas.

And  Happy New Year.

See you on the 3rd of Jan.

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