Archive for October, 2009


John F
October 28th, 2009

New kid on the blog

As a tribute both to Gary Roskell’s powers of persuasion and to the determination of the new boy to impress, I am writing this ‘blog’. I am more than a little technophobic and pretty useless too when it comes to the natural, chatty, ‘personal’ style these things seem to require.

I have now been a core member at The Play House for half a term and I’m just starting to realise the profound consequences of my new employment. For example, I haven’t had a job which requires me to work in an office since I was a Law Clerk in the Crown Prosecution Service (and that’s so long ago that when I worked there you hand wrote the barrister’s briefs – not as intimate as it sounds- and sent them to a ‘typing pool’).

Now, obviously, The Play House is nothing like the CPS: you don’t leave the office to go to a place where individuals are to be condemned to years of incarceration in a Government Institution (unless your view of education is horribly cynical); but I am, nevertheless, once again, partly an office worker.

So, what’s changed? (apart from the loss of a typing pool). When I worked for the CPS I was late almost every day, (they gave me an alarm clock when I left after my 9 months there). Well, I am pleased to report that I am now an excellent timekeeper. My boss doesn’t show me pictures of gruesome crimes as a way of inspiring me to greater prosecuting ambition (although there is a picture of Malcolm made up as The Joker which took me back).

There isn’t a big board telling everybody where everybody else is supposed to be – oh actually there is – but I haven’t yet walked in and learned from it that I am supposed to be in Warwick Crown Court 2 prosecuting in the Queen vs Burglar Bill 10 miles away at that very moment. And until now, Deborah hasn’t had a call from a Head Teacher asking why the new teacher/actor is wearing brown shoes and a tie with a square end and when he proposes to start dressing appropriately (or if she has she’s kept it quiet). In fact, thinking about it, there are loads of differences, not the least of which is that The Play House has an office I look forward to going to.

John

Malcolm J
October 9th, 2009

We just have to figure out how to weave the strands together…

I had mixed feelings when Gary and Deborah told me that I would be working on our preventing violent extremism programme, Tapestry. Excitement as this was to be a high profile project dealing with up to the minute issues that had great impact on all of us. There was also a significant level of trepidation, even fear. Would we do justice to this very complex and sensitive area? If we got this wrong we could make tensions worse.  So no pressure there then!

Inspired (if that’s the right word) by the protests in Luton around the soldiers of the Anglian regiment returning from Iraq we chose to set our drama in a closed down shop unit on a recession hit city high street (you might think Woolworths, but we refuse to comment…).

We created Jason, fighting on behalf of “The Young Patriots”, a far right organization; Hassan, arguing in support of an extreme Islamist organization, “The Circle of Truth”; and Naz, caught in the middle, a young British Muslim woman trying to make them see the complexity of the truth.

This allowed us the opportunity to explore parallels in right wing and Islamist extremism, each fuelling greater excesses in the other.

The research sessions we ran with a variety of diverse groups served to allay some of my anxieties. One of the key things that helped was the eagerness with which people wanted to talk about extremism in all its forms.  It was something everybody was thinking about but not talking about as if they were as worried as me about saying the wrong thing and offending people. I took great heart that people were less sensitive than I had imagined ready and willing to have this conversation.

But the violence in the City Centre in early September reignited worries in me that we might be opening an extremely lively can of worms. It felt as if we had been overtaken by our own prediction.

As we continue the tour it is the young people we are meeting on a daily basis that are quietening my fears. They are thoughtful, sensitive, optimistic and passionate. They challenge each of the extremists in the programme equally whilst acknowledging that both have some justification for their disenchantment. It is the courses of action that Jason and Hassan have chosen to resolve their frustrations that the young people so vehemently take issue with.

Which begs the question: what can each of us do to avoid the future of death, fear, anger and revenge that is predicted in the drama if Jason and Hassan continue on their present course?

Answers on a postcard please! Or simply comment below.