Where I've Been
- 30 October, 2020
- Linda Brogan
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What I've been doing since I've been missing. I still feel strange. Sad. Just deeply sad.
19.04.20 our Whitworth exhibition closed in lockdown.
19.05.20 my son in law died. My wings fell off. I retreated into my real state: introversion. I couldn't bear the thought of Facebook etc. My daughter is still devastated. They were together 26 years: a 14 years old girl and a 16 years old lad. For months I have been incapable of doing anything except look after her.
Why I Want To Stab A Blond White Woman In The Royal Court Bar
23.09.20 I moved back home. To occupy myself and learn how to mind my own business again, I began to work on developing the multi-media show of our journey. The commissioner has sworn their identity to secrecy. Always referred to previously, tongue in cheek, as a musical.
23.10.20 I woke up in the middle of the night remembering the title Why I Want to Stab a Blonde White Woman in The Royal Court Bar. I pitched it to the Royal Court in 2014 as a play. Vicky their AD said I would most definitely come to see a play called that. I had no idea what that play could or would be. I realise now this whole project began in order to answer that question.
So Monday to Friday I walk up to Chorlton buy a coffee in Mary and Archies and spend an hour mind-mapping the multi-media show. Then for ½ an hour I write a chapter of Why I Want To Stab a Blonde White Woman in The Royal Court Bar. Now I think it might be a book not a play: the answer is so long and complex.
Or maybe it is a book that we read individually then come together in a theatre to have the dialogue, a real dialogue. A new interpretation of theatre, that answers what my title reveals, by expressing what it makes us feel, makes us identify with. Launched in the Royal Court of course. A new type of theatre that travels to theatres all over the world.
I never let go, though, of our little writing workshop, began in January. Carmen, Catherine, and Tia have finished their chapters. We’ve even designed a proto-cover. Being part of this amazing group gave me peers I could talk quietly to when I needed to, and shown me how to write from your heart and what writing can do. They are currently typing up their book entitled Twelve Words. Then Blue Moose Books will read it. And if it’s not for them, Kevin has promised to help us publish ourselves. He has already helped us price and timetable the next steps.
- Here's the introduction.
Exiled from my 2010 play Speechless for questioning the white middle class director, 2016 I film memoirs of my 1970s teenage cellar club in Moss Side, The Reno: a haven for mixed race like me. 2017 we excavate the Reno with Salford Uni Applied Archaeology. 2018 the Reno memoirs and excavation are finalists in 8 national awards. 2018/2020 in an 18 months residency we exhibit our memoirs, artefacts, teen photos in Whitworth Art Gallery; and design our journey’s book https://thereno.live/files/RENO_300x300_S6d.pdf. 2019 we win Outstanding Contribution to Manchester Culture Award. The overall project is a play: real characters, achieving real events, in real time, documented like a script here on https://thereno.live
Towards the end of our Whitworth residency I offer writing lessons. Joined first by Carmen, a fully-fledged Reno girl, then Tia, her mum was a Reno girl, then Catherine, a Reno girl we don’t know. We don’t know what we will find. But we have a location. Each week armed with their trowels: an object from their life, 12 quick fire words they associate with that object, and a title I set, at first, in an hour a week set aside only for them they dig. Come back. Read. We join each on our knees, using the brushes of understanding, empathy, relating, to gently unearth the following title. ‘Don’t tell us yet you’ll use up the energy.’ Gradually, gradually, we begin to trust each other with our secrets. Things ladies leave unsaid. Eventually we stand proudly over the burial ground of three intertwined adorned female warriors. Surrounded by their artefacts. Properly laid to rest. We think you’ll recognise them.
- Here's the blurb, the bit on the back, written by Tia.
Anthropological confessions: Extraordinary chapters by four ordinary women. Twelve Words were the secret ingredients that unlocked truths, secrets, confessions and released trauma. Without any formal expressive writing experience, three women born in Moss-side and inner-city Manchester, embarked on an excavation of their lives, sculpted by Linda Brogan, that together fused into a book of self-discovery and pride. It is rippled with pain, anger, violence and compensated with fun, laughter and Manc humour.
This book will be beneficial to a whole spectrum of disciplines, including those studying, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Criminology and Creative Writers but its true intent is to reach girls and young women that feel like they are facing the impossible. This one’s for you.
Cradle Of Humanity
To write the final scene of the multi-media show about our journey, I want to spend mid Jan to mid Feb in the Cradle of Humanity, located about 50 km (31 mi) northwest of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province. There I will photograph and film the prehistoric caves, the cave art, the landscape, the stars our first ancestors saw; interview locals to understand their perception of 'we all came out of Africa,' their creation story; plus talk to a Witwatersrand Uni paleoanthropologist about fossil lineage.
I am 61 now. Time is running out. Death teaches you that. Well known and respected, I have built a strong, just, platform for people like us to have their voice. Now, as a half black person, I am sick of the story always being about what we have not got. I want to build an inner pride, like the Reno memoirs, excavation and Whitworth exhibition did for Moss Side. This is what we have got. You cannot get better than this. We are the Dawn of Humanity. Which means everyone is descended from black. I want to kick over the cart of crawling through what we now think of ourselves because of Slavery, Colonialism, Jim Crow, and Apartheid. I want to use this platform to shine a light on a beautiful notion. We are the world's grandparents. And the world needs to understand and respect that. I have to see it for myself first. That is what my journey to Gauteng is about.
Our Amazing Whitworth Legacy
Pioneered by Ed Watts, Head of Learning and Engagement in the Whitworth, the person who reached out and invited us to colonise the Whitworth 23.11.18 which led to our 18 months residency there, sanctioned by their AD Alistair Hudson, our constant champion, our room, affectionately known as the Reno room in the Whitworth, will, ‘stay as a constantly evolving space used by local creatives’.
In our Zoom meeting I understood this to mean our sofas will still surround our rug, which will surround our TV. A place for other local communities to relax, where ideas can be shown on our screen and conversations can take place. Ideas they can evolve on our magnetic boards we've left behind. Leading to creations they display in our artefact sideboard under our Perspex.
The huge Reno photo is staying up. To signify our legacy. Eventually it will naturally be worn away by the art displayed on top of it. In Ed’s words ‘I would love to reopen that space with your beautiful large photos on the wall and the groups' own artworks, made with Paul, hung with pride on the top. Just accompanied by a short text giving context to their time with the gallery. Each with an artist credit and all the usually Whitworth treatment. We’d leave that up for a few months until another set of artworks had been developed with another local group. It would be the start of something great for the gallery.
I will always be grateful for the growth I made within the Whitworth, and friends I made. I am looking forward to witnessing the irrevocable change we have made to their institution and the knock on affect of future displays.
I Want To See The World
I have rented a lockup for all our artefacts, those displayed in the Whitworth and those previously stored in my flat. I will use them all to delineate the Reno in the multi-media show.
I dug deep into me, deep into my roots, deep into my community. I love my community. We have had a blast. We have done amazing things together. Who could have imagined, thought, believed what we have achieved? What we have done together.
I now want to see how things can be done differently, other countries' art. Watching Africans making dresses the other day I realised that they are limited by their fashion, and if that is true of them, that is also true of me.
I feel like when Quai Chan Khan burnt the dragons into his forearms. It is time to leave the temple.