Haikus for the NHS: watch the video

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On Saturday, 4 March 2017, the team at Nothing in the Rulebook joined almost 250,000 protesters at the demonstration in support of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in London.

This was a crucial part of the final end-game of our  ‘Haikus for the NHS‘ poetry project, which sought to build on the long-standing tradition of poetry as protest to support the NHS.

You can watch the short film detailing our experience of the day below.

You can also read the winning haiku, along with short- and long-listed entries online. 

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Disappear Here – Coventry Ringroad Made New

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Disappear Here Logo: designed by Emilia Moniszko

Disappear Here is a project that aims to bring together nine writers and nine film-makers to make a series of films about the Coventry ringroad. We are currently crowdfunding start-up support to get the project off the ground and, to-date, we are almost half-way to our target figure of £1000.

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‘Untitled’ by Adam Steiner. This image first appeared in Foxhole magazine, Vol. 2.

The challenge of Disappear Here is to bring together artists of different stripes, some more experienced practitioners, others up and coming and hungry; native Coventrians and people who might be coming to the city for the first time and seeing it with fresh eyes; expressing the human aspect of what is so commonly seen as an inhuman structure, another one of HRH Charles’ “concrete monstrosities” – by way of contrast, witness the faux-Kensington banality of his ideal housing estate, Poundbury – but it is also fair to say that few near-monolithic concrete structures inspire such intense feelings of love and loathing.

But there is a positivity to the project. As much as it is anything, Coventry Ringroad is an archetype of reinvention. Each time the same A4053 road, but every journey around it different. It is the eye through which Coventry is (notoriously) seen, and can be seen, from above and below; a looping horizon where tarmac sea and brilliant blue sky meet and form a sinew of shuffling perspective. Here is one of the first videos we created a test-run for the Disappear Here concept – Antony Owen – The Dreamer of Samuel Vale House:

Having spent many hours, day and night, circumnavigating (traipsing about) Coventry ringroad, I became fascinated with its welcoming overhang of proud underbelly. The swell of concrete, the gross lump of potential energy as mass is a perpetual question – round and round, enacting flux, but arriving at no answer, generating only questions.

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Photography by Adam Steiner.

Coventry is an ex-working-class city, chock-full with post-industrial grit from crumbling fire of red brick, after many of its 70s, 80s and 90s industries successively closed down. As such, the city has become an affordable and welcoming haven for artists with a burgeoning community of creative and socially-conscious practitioners – there is a story to be told there. I think the people and the city’s physical attitudes speak to this, guarded but protective. As both defensive wall and encircling stranglehold – the ringroad echoes this taut insularity, but also provides us with a blank canvas for reimagining public space. I think this push/pull reflex makes for an interesting tension as to how we define a city and its search for its centre.

It’s an irony that the creation of the ringroad brought about a series of displacements (the least of which being the destruction of the childhood home of errant Coventrian poet, Philip Larkin, more rightly, of Hull) that sought to unite and focus the city as shopping precinct, promenading arcades and preservation of ruins and sites of heritage, including the Coventry Baths Elephant, a modernist beast of epic girth that was sadly not granted listed status and is due for demolition.

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Photography by Adam Steiner

But in place of fear, new generations of artists, eager to look beyond the apparent greyness of concrete, swept-up in the internationaliste fervour of post-Situationist post-Ballardian psychogeographic dogma that has voraciously absorbed hipsters/Brutalism/Iain Sinclair/The Guardian/Shoreditch wankers/Will Self with gruff uniformity of common interest – thus what’s brute is automatically beautiful (Milton Keynes?) – but each will have their own stories to tell – whether they are born-and-bred citizens, London ex-pats, outsiders or newly-arrived to the city (unlike other UK centres, Coventry has a strong reputation for inclusively welcoming and embracing immigrants and refugees a la Two-Tone). There is an argument that the self-loving lust of interstices and abandoned spaces (ruin porn) has become insular and in its own way alienating, which is where Disappear Here has a fresh perspective around urban space, to aggravate as much as analyse the good, the bad and the less deceived of Coventry ringroad.

As Larkin identifies in his poem, Here, so many modern cities share a history and formation of modernist town centres as well architectural and town-planning follies, such that they could be mistaken for one another. For me, this makes many themes of Coventry ringroad universal to citizens across the UK (and the rest of the world), both as physical space and in the social make-up and attitudes of its population. In spite of its relatively small size, Coventry is one of the most diverse cities in the UK which is something to embrace in the relatively niche world of poetry films; an emerging medium that is highly adaptable in creating impressionistic, conceptual films, or more straightforward narrative performances, often clocking-in at under 5 minutes. The mercurial nature of a written poem then read or performed alongside visuals is actually a highly-accessible medium as it breaks down barriers of language and can be enjoyed on many levels.

So, if you want to see alternative histories, new beginnings and the creation of unique poetry/film collaborations about Coventry ringroad (and future cities) please support the fundraising campaign, submit your pitches once the project is launched and SHARE and disseminate our propaganda:

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Disappear Here | Indiegogo

Facebook – Disappear Here

About the author of this post

Disappear Here is a project created by Adam Steiner, an artist who co-founded the Coventry-based not-for-profit publisher, Silhouette Press and Here Comes Everyone magazine back in 2012, as well as holding various literary events across Coventry, including the Fire & Dust poetry open-mics at The Big Comfy Bookshop (Fargo).

Our silent friends: stunning short film celebrates our spiritual connection with trees and nature

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The Glastonbury Thorn, with its own associated mythology and connection to Joseph of Arimathea, is but one of many examples of trees to which human beings have attached a great, long, deep and complex association with spirituality. Photography: Mike Dodson/Vagabond Images

Trees – the oldest living things in our world – have been mankind’s ever-present, silent companions from the dawn of time and life. They have been transmuted into myths and metaphor, and have long been used to symbolise and visualise human knowledge and the cycle of life. “The Tree of Life” means so much and makes so much sense to us, perhaps because they are so strong and salient, bearing steadfast witness to our own evolution, and indeed, the wider evolution of the entire planet. There is little wonder why, staring at the spreading branches and leaves of trees reaching into the sky, we have projected our internal spiritual longings onto these arboreal companions.

Think, for example, of the thoughts penned by 17th century English gardener, Ralph Austen, in his pamphlet ‘The Spiritual Use of an Orchard of Garden of Fruit Trees’:

“The world is a great library, and fruit trees are some of the books wherein we may read and see plainly the attributes of God, his power, wisdom, goodness &c. … for as trees (in a metaphorical sense)* are books, so like-wise in the same sense they have a voice, and speak plainly to us, and teach us many good lessons.

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Fruit trees, though they are dumb companions, yet (in a sense) we may discourse with them… We may read divine truths in them, as in a book consisting of words and sentences… Not only rational and irrational, but even inanimate creatures have a voice, and speak loudly to men, and it is our duty to learn their language, and hearken to them.”

As we seek to learn this language, however, we are so often distracted by thoughts ever present in this digitised world of 24/7 work, where we are so often trapped in offices behind computer screens and within ethereal spaces of the internet.

To help us regain our connection with nature and with trees, Spanish multimedia storytelling outfit, Kauri, has produced a beautiful short film celebrating our abiding bond with trees.

We present this cinematic ode – ‘The Silent Friends’ – with accompanying words from the creators:

“The Silent Friends is a film about trees, and how they possess the virtues we seek in those close to us. Every tree plays a vital role in our world, and the uniqueness of each tree is, in fact, universal. Each is as important as the other, so long as they are respected and loved, and we are aware of their presence. Just like a friend.”

After watching the film, we suggest rising up from your desk, walking to your nearest copse, woodland or forest, and spending at least thirty minutes spending a little time in the presence of our oldest companions. You never know – it might even help with your writing.

 

 

Experience: Working with a writing mentor

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I don’t have an infectious disease but if I did, I imagine telling people you have one garners much the same reaction as telling people you’ve written a short comedy film.

There’s normally some initial interest – even enthusiasm – but then a yawning chasm of social awkwardness opens as people think I might expect them to like the film or even worse – find it funny.

Help, guidance and expertise

Not withstanding this reaction I am pressing on with my lonely foray into character comedy and writing what I hope might someday be the pilot of a sitcom. I am helped in this by Micheal Jacob, my writing mentor who has, so far never backed away from me in a social situation (although there’s still time).

Micheal is a hugely experienced former BBC exec producer and is behind some of the UK’s best-loved comedies including The Smoking RoomMy Family and Birds of a Feather. He is also the author of a smashing book on TV sitcom Getting It On and I am genuinely honoured to have his help, guidance and expertise. I am only sorry that I am not writing things more quickly. Indeed whole civilizations have lived and died in the space of time I have taken to write 27 pages of script.

Learning from Micheal: advice for working with a mentor

In 2013, I won a competition through comedy film production company COFILMIC to have my script of Tea Time in Haworth, made into a short film. Micheal kindly offered to script edit for me and then after chatting about magical northern realism and his experiences with tempestuous actors, encouraged me to keep writing – but next time a longer piece. Which is what I’m currently trying to do.

Here are my five tips on what I’ve learned from working with Micheal:

  1. Realise what a mentor is for
    A mentor isn’t going to tell you what to write or how to write – however much you might want them to. They’re not going to write things for you. You have to do the thinking and the writing. For me, Micheal steers me in the right general direction and gives me constructive advice and feedback via sometimes frustratingly vague but eventually always very useful comments.
  2. It’s up to you to do the work
    In an early email exchange, Michael said that I should make one part of my story ‘more complicated’. What in God’s holy order does that mean? It’s already complicated – isn’t it? I went away and downloaded a script of the genius that is The Smoking Roomand broke it down into scenes to see what ‘complicated’ meant. I then bought a book of Royle Familyscripts and read all three series – taking notes as I went. If you’re still unsure ask for clarification but do the work first.
  3. Be ready to take brutally honest feedback
    If you want people to say only nice things about your work, go ask your mum. I find writing workshops where everyone sits round saying how great other people’s ideas are to be deeply unhelpful. Micheal is always courteous and polite with his feedback but the message is always crystal clear. A mentor doesn’t do the writer any favours if they’re not frank. It’s good to be a bit scared of them.
  4. Know your own style but trust their judgement
    Part of the problem with writing scripts is that every bugger has a view on them. But some bugger’s views are better than others – like Micheal’s. If you’re writing something like a sitcom and your mentor tells you something won’t work – that’s because it probably doesn’t work. If you feel you’re being forced into taking a course of action that you wholly disagree with – you’ve probably got the wrong mentor.
  5. Never take your mentor’s help for granted.
    Be nice to them, don’t abuse their help, always understand they are busy. Don’t hassle them but make it clear that if you need them to look at something quickly. They’re a writer, they know that you work to deadlines. Also, be respectful of how you communicate with them. In general, writers tend to like good writing and get pissed off with typos, poor spelling and general sloppiness – whether in your work or correspondence. I know I do.

So, in summary:

  • Don’t expect your mentor to do your writing for you – that’s your job
  • Feedback isn’t always going to be easy to understand – do the research
  • Feedback isn’t always going to be easy to take – deal with it
  • If you really don’t agree with your mentor’s advice – get a new mentor
  • Respect people and don’t be a pain in the ass (this is just general life advice)

About the author of this post

Chris is a writer, blogger, former philosophy lecturer and now co-founder at Prolifiko, a tech startup making digital productivity tools for writers of all types. His most recent side project is a new blog called Founders and Philosophers, where he’s aiming to write about what entrepreneurs can learn from history’s greatest thinkers.  He tweets at @SwarmComms.

 

You’ve read about it: now watch the film!

You can now watch Tea Time In Haworth, the excellent short film written by Chris, here. Nothing in the rulebook’s very own movie critic and film aficionado, Professor Wu, says: “Tea Time in Haworth is an absolutely excellent film – funny, interesting and engaging all in equal measure.”