This blog was first published for the Beyond the Border New Voices Mentoring scheme here; https://beyondtheborder.com/kestrel-blog-2/
It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. The fire is burning low and the rain is beating down on the roof of the van. I’ve got no more firewood inside, to get more I’ll have to venture out into the cold, wet night, it’s not an appealing prospect.
It all started earlier in the evening; I was researching eviction notices for Binderella, trying to find the most suitable jargon for a faceless official, when a picture of a squatter catches my eye. Do I know them? Into the google rabbit hole.
Picture after picture flash by, crusty punks and floaty hippies, anarchists and peace activists, mums and kids, hard workers and serious clowns. Squatters in all states of victory and defeat, celebrating their new homes, resisting evictions, living, laughing, loving and crying. I’m looking for the faces I recognise, old memories hiding under layers of time and trauma.
There, a smile I know, a haircut, a masked face recognisable only to a friend. These old friends lead me back, photo by photo, to the pictures of the place I can’t forget, the trees and gardens, the barricades and poly-tunnels, the treehouses, benders, yurts and that old rusting military hangar.
A fire bath sits in a forest, besides a rushing spring.
A crooked tower emblazoned “Community Before Profit” leans at a jaunty angle.
Some places are always there, long after they’re gone, carved in perfect detail in the stone walls of the deep caves where we keep our memories.
I’m thinking of evictions again. The Distillers are playing on the tinny laptop speakers, Brody Dalle’s growling and screaming provides a backdrop for the shadow-puppets of my mind. I remember burning houses, burning trees, bulldozers in the night, the shriek and scream of rusty metal being torn apart, black poisonous smoke and shouting ugly men. The violence of it never leaves, every door battered down, every home wrecked, every dream broken, they are spray-paint in the cave, thick and crude, masking the sublime carvings of memories past. Inelegant tags that bear the legend “Bailiff was ere”.
It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. Evictions stir the old well of depression. Some stories are hard to tell.
It’s a Covid winter and life feels hard.
The van roof is leaking again, the shower has stopped working, there’s not enough light for the solar panels and the exhaust has fallen off the car. Who knows what we’ll do for Christmas?
I feel like a clown, juggling too many pies to the amusement of an audience who wait for me to drop one. Will it be me who ends up with pie on my face or the clown next to me?
The mentorship is amazing, I tell everyone.
The mentorship is overwhelming, I think to myself.
For everyone thing I learn I become aware of two more things I don’t know, I can’t learn fast enough to sate my cravings. The show is going well but there is still so much more to do. Creativity comes easy but organisation is hard and Covid still hangs, an uncertain cloud over the future.
Daniel teaches me about Jacques Lecoq’s seven levels of tension in performance and I realise that my base level of performance tension is teeth grinding, anxiety and white knuckles. When did life get so stressful?
Burning houses, burning trees. Some stories are hard to tell.
It’s a cold day in Bute Park and I’m telling Cath how I’m struggling, Cath is being Cath; lovely and kind, and telling me not to be too hard on myself. We talk about anger in storytelling, the need to express real emotions and explore the darkness. We talk about the psychedelic experience, escaping madness and the shamanic magic in storytelling. I try to find an alternative to the words ‘shamanic magic’ but can’t settle on any I like better. Witchcraft? Mystic Shit? Sacred Lies?
We talk about the story of Mabon, of animism and invocation, of kingfishers on the Taff and the heron colony in the Asda car-park by the M4, then we discuss which art-form is the oldest, story, music or dance. ‘We don’t know’ is our final conclusion ‘maybe all of them?’.
I tell Cath my dreams for the show after Binderella, the one that’s hard to tell, and Cath encourages me to keep feeding my dreams even as I work on current projects.
Then we hug a tree because we can’t hug each other.
I go busking in the rain to clear my head of the teeth grinding chatter. Forty minutes later, the £8.60 in freshly sanitised change easily covers the days petrol and I leave the wet city behind.
I get home exhausted to a warm fire, wonderful junk food and a purring cat.
This story was hard to tell.
It’s 2am and I’m tired. The fire is out, and the rain is beating down on the roof of the van. Time to sleep and feed my dreams. Even the hard stories can be told.
‘The enemy is bigger if you’re on your knees‘ -Zapatista mural
‘The enemy is smaller if you’re on a tower’ -Yorkley saying