Winter Short Story Competition.
The stories are in, the words came from:
Winter Short Story Competition.
Winter Short Story Competition.
The stories are in, the words came from:
Dr. Abdulrahman Dheyab is a London-based Iraqi journalist covering Middle Eastern and Western politics. He has an interest in cultural issues and very much believes in using culture as a soft power to build a bridge between the West and East.
Dheyab studied print journalism at Baghdad University in 1994. However, he did not work in journalism until the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. His media career began with the Iraqi Today newspaper – published by a British publisher – where he covered stories from all over Iraq, including US military operations in more unstable areas. This work put him at real risk from the military, militants groups, and especially terrorists – and he very nearly lost his life on a number of occasions.
In 2005 Dheyab moved to London where he studied for a Masters Degree in International Journalism at City University, specialising in TV journalism. During his studies he also worked as a freelance journalist for news organisations including Channel 4, APTN, BBC, Al-Jazeera English, and as a reporter for Alsharqiya – an Iraqi satellite channel based in London.
In 2007 Dheyab embarked on PhD research exploring the American role in shaping the Iraqi media between 2003-2005. He was awarded a Doctoral Degree in Philosophy from City University, London in December 2011. It is from this research that his book: The Media in Occupied Iraq is mainly drawn.
Dheyab is currently the Director of the Iraqi Cultural Centre in London – which he established in 2012. The Centre is sponsored by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. In 2013 he founded a media production company, “Dima”, also based in London, which continues to work with Western TV companies in the Middle East and with Arab and Iraqi TV companies in the UK.
As elections loom in the UK, I thought I would express my distaste for the world of political positioning and their use of portraits of political leaders to “persuade us”. An extract here from my unportraits collection. See more here.
“Making portraits is a response to the natural human tendency to think about oneself, of oneself in relation to others” – Richard Brilliant
“Defacement works on objects the way jokes work on language, bringing out their inherent magic nowhere more so than when those objects have become routinized and social…” – Michael Taussig
In February I had the honour of being part of a small trial audience for the first ever performance of “Freedom Machine” by brand new Cambridge theatre company LiveCycle Theatre. As an inherently shy person, the intimacy of this inaugural occasion was compounded by the knowledge that this was to be just a two person show – performed, devised and developed by two of Cambridge’s celebrated young performers, Daisy Botha and Sam Williams. An intense experience was anticipated, and I wasn’t disappointed – for all the right reasons.
For 50 minutes the pair took the audience on a journey that skilfully meandered through the deep dark subjects of insecurity, lost ambitions and ultimately the pain of yearning freedom. From the innocent star-gazing of Abbey as a child, to her conflicted vulnerable adult self – who convincingly flipped into undercurrents of a more sassy Abbey – to the angst ridden James, who lost his love and chance at freedom as a child and remained haunted by the past. The interaction of these two misfits was enthralling, moving, and at times frightening. Although intense, I completely forgot the intimacy of the event and became utterly absorbed in their stories.
Laughter, however, was never far away, and the use of the bicycle as a metaphore for freedom and the tongue-in-cheek Tour de France references make “Freedom Machine” an important performance to repeat in Cambridge this summer.
With a small cast and no budget it is clear that both this show and LiveCycle Theatre need and deserve some real investment. I look forward to seeing them develop and will be the first to buy a ticket when the show goes public and starts touring!
Pip is the dark, bearded fusion of everything I want to hear
Sometimes at social gatherings or management training camps we are asked to reveal something surprising about ourselves. I have quite a few nuggets in my kit bag, but one that usually raises most eyebrows is that once-upon-a-time I used to be a rapper. We are talking 1980s inner city Bristol. A couple of gigs, even a local radio interview. I wasn’t very good, it didn’t last long, but it has a secret place that brings a smile to my internal curriculum vitae.
I have enjoyed hip hop and rap over the years, and as my political self has grown and travelled I have been drawn towards more meaningful lyrics. I fed on Grand Masters (Flash and Melle), Public Enemy, Asian Dub Foundation, The Streets, even enjoyed some of the feminist wiles of Missy Elliot and delighted as my own brother took to the mic and waxed social-political lyrical. However good it is to dance to, I less inclined towards the misogynistic, self indulgent sounds that have bizarrely seeped into a music genre that was born out of oppression.
I guess I am therefore the obvious Scroobius Pip fan. He offers intelligent, thoughtful, socio-political words in contemporary language, imbued with the hip hop/electronica beats of Dan Le Sac. Pip is the dark, bearded fusion of everything I want to hear.
However I have become musically apathetic in my middle age. Even with music at my technological fingertips, I fail to really listen any more. My own poetry and prose often reduced to Facebook comments and the sharing of wise sounds from others like Pip. Last night, I had to be prized off the sofa to go and see one of my favourites performing at The Junction. But I’m so glad I did.
The gig was packed with surprising energy and more beards than you could wave a stick at (or would want to). I’m sure even those who thought they were going to a quite poetry slam enjoyed the thumping mid-weekly tunes that Le Sac produced. The middle-class Guardian readers were moshing right along-side the stoned sixth-formers. Beer was chucked in good spirits and even Scroobius appeared surprised that Cambridge was the “rowdiest” crowd of the tour. I wanted to shout out that we are a city of intellectuals, many of whom have drugs problems, but I kept my mouth shut for fear of being considered one of either.
Le Sac’s exchanges with Pip appeared witty and genuine, and got them through a few technical difficulties. In a funny way I’m glad the sound set-up last night didn’t make it possible to hear every word Pip uttered. Rarely have I rushed and gushed to the merchandise stand and was first in line to buy Repent Replenish Repeat from the man himself. And the first thing I have done this morning is play it and read the lyrics printed on the cover. Then find the videos online. This experience just keeps giving. I am listening again.
Scroobius Pip bares the vulnerable under-belly of his creativity for all to see (in more ways than one). He jested last night that his words are depressing – yet with the juxtaposition of Le Sac musical response to his everyone intonation, it makes for moving artistry. It’s a perfect marriage. Pip makes books, he draws pictures (a thank you for drawing one for Syria), and he writes important, significant poetry. Without meaning to embellish his messiah complex, one cannot help comparing the last night’s Thou Shalt Not Kill to a religious experience as the audience chanted along, not missing a beat. I’ve not witnessed anything quite like it since God was a DJ with Faithless.
So it was a great gig. But something else happened last night. The poet was awoken in me – and now buzzing in some creative inertia – I am wondering how to turn my own journey into words and sounds – a means I left behind in the 1980s. To repent, replenish and ultimately repeat perhaps I have a few surprises left in me yet.
A huge thank you to everyone who made yesterday possible! We had a fantastic launch and exhibition for “Homes” our new short story anthology. The writers, the artists, the sponsors, the judges, the local media, the companions, the cake bakers, my family, friends and our charity of the year Emmaus. This morning I posted all pre-orders and all author gratis copies….and at the last count we only have 2 copies left. Don’t worry I will be ordering more – but this is fantastic news – and may mean we can run the whole thing again next year (we will see). I will be writing to you all separately in the next couple of days, but I wanted to get this thank you up as soon as possible. In a break from tradition, I have moved away from our usual monochrome ethos and posted some colour snap below, as befits the occasion!
We were warned several times that the performance of Dickens’ The Haunting by Nasu Enzuru Theatre would be quite frightening, but last night’s final performance at Burwash in Cambridge was scarier than the audience could have imagined.
An outdoors performance in November was a brave decision – but no body could accuse this theatre group of not taking risks.
There were clues early on in the evening; as the audience gathered for warm food and drink in a giant teepee the wind blew out the fire spinner and smoke madly billowed from an open fire. There were rumours that local fireworks displays had been cancelled because of the wind. Excitement grew as the audience was led to the open marquee from where they would view the performance. It was immediately apparent that this was going to be an exceptional evening.
With the help of radio mikes, actors Cael McNally and Luke Harvie could be heard through the howl of the wind – and as the gusts banged cupboard doors on set, it was hard to establish what was a haunting and what was the weather. But they managed to set the scene and establish a rapport with the audience to such an extent that when part of the set collapsed in the wind and crashed to the floor, it almost seemed part of the show. Real terror struck however when a gust shattered a mirror close to the crowd and despite being weighed down by concrete blocks, the marquee lifted off the ground – forcing audience members to cling to the sides to keep it from blowing away.
Miraculously as the rain started to lash down on the performers, they bravely continued. The winds that threatened to end the show, marginally calmed – and through saturated props, a tattered and part-missing set, The Haunting ran its course. This was a real testamont to the skill of the actors on stage, who ad-libbed about “the bloody wind” with a mastery, and still managed to frighten a pre-occupied audience with glimpses of rain-soaked ghosts.
This was a real night to remember – I look forward to their next performance…in the snow maybe?
Last Thursday I had a rare encounter with the Babolin Theatre group. Their one and only Cambridge performance of Sentinels was fully booked and I was lucky to have got a seat: fresh from Edinburgh Fringe success, the audience was filled with boisterous home-crowd friends.
When Sentinels opened with the “sculpted” cast members facing out to sea, the cast iron work of Antony Gormley immediately came to mind. The audience were soon silenced as Boudicca powerfully announced herself and her two daughters – three fine performances that would lead us through the narrative during the play.
Singling out the three actors is unfair and perhaps prompted by their refreshing presentation that related so well to a pet subject – that of contemporary analysis of feminism – “they are all Roman’s aren’t they” repeats Boudicca’s raped daughter throughout. Perhaps a cliché that young people should choose rape and death as subject matter, but far from the usual overacted teenage issues of “unfairness”, Sentinels is handled with absolute maturity and real sensitivity. You laugh, you weep, and you believe in every performance.
A multitude of other tales and characters expertly weave their way through Boudicca’s tragedy: a stone mason gripped with passion and frustration; an ever-so-slightly-camp Roman centurion; a drunken east ender; the delicacy of a speaking lump of granite; defacement; a plastic surgeon struggling with the bottle; and her errant step-daughter, who throws herself from a rooftop on the back of a grumpy gargoyle. And as complex as that sounds, it is not over ambitious – songs gently float from the performers, metallic painted costumes coordinate, and it is choreographed in such a way that Sentinels is presented as a cohesive whole.
As Anthony Gormley once said, “How do you make the timelessness of inert, silent objects count for something? How to use the dumbness of sculpture in a way that acts on us as living things?” Sentinels have somehow bridged a gap between the living and the silent object. I will never look at a statue in the same way again.
I’m sorry I missed the show in Edinburgh, and I am sorry for readers who have missed it entirely. Sentinels is now over. I would recommend watching out for any aspiring actors with Babolin Theatre experience in their CV. I will be disappointed and surprised if none of them meets with big stage or screen success.
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