Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Yorkshire adventure

Going up to Yorkshire is always an adventure, and arriving in Leeds last night felt like coming home. The county has been very good to me over the years; from early childhood holidays, through university into the magical experience of making A Symphony for Yorkshire. I particularly love Leeds. I like the fact that it’s a bit rough around the edges. It feels like a proper city full of proper people. It feels confident and at ease with itself.

Last night’s awards were bizarre. Not being able to talk in a big social networking maze is both frustrating and eye-opening. These kinds of events can be very unforgiving, and big crowds often make me feel gauche and clumsy, wanting to shrink into the wallpaper. Winning three awards, however, means lots of people come up and say hello, so it becomes impossible to hide. Besides, I was the bloke wondering around with a white board and pen, which latterly became the notepad on my iPhone when the pen ran out.

Despite being flushed with success, it’s amazing how many people very quickly got bored of trying to communicate with me. At one point a girl actually turned her back on me as I was writing something to her, and completely blocked me out of a group of people who were standing in a circle talking. I am pleased to say that she didn’t win the award she was up for.

The experience of being mute reminds me quite how difficult it must be for disabled people who want to integrate themselves into society. It also seems to attract a certain type of woman with the sort of low self esteem, which manifests itself as domineering behaviour. I was well and truly cornered by one such creature, who went on and on about how wonderful it was to talk to a man who didn’t talk back. “I bet your wife’s grateful.” I just nodded. I really didn’t want to get into her views on gay men. She was bound to have views on that subject. She had views on everything else. I couldn’t wait to get away. When I explained that I’d had polyps on my vocal chords and was waiting for the biopsy results, she felt obliged to tell me that her step son had had the same thing and it had turned out to be throat cancer. I told her the surgeons had told me all the way along that they didn’t think it was cancer, but she said they’d said the same to her when she had breast cancer. I’m just not quite sure what makes people say these things. I’m waiting for results. It’s not like I’m burying my head in the sand and hoping things will go away.

Still, it was wonderful to win three awards. It actually became quite embarrassing to repeatedly go up on the stage. It felt like our night, alright. We won more awards than any other single piece, including This Is England 86 (which won nothing) and South Riding. I felt incredibly proud and was particularly thrilled to win the music award. We were up against the theme tune to Dick and Dom and some war documentary, which I was convinced had won when they started to read out what the judges thought about each of the entrants. The judges said that A Symphony for Yorkshire, in short, “did exactly what it said it was going to do on the tin.” So there.

Winning the music award

I sat outside the Weatherspoons at Leeds Station this morning and did about an hour’s writing. A woman came along and asked if she could share the table with me. She then proceeded to smoke her way through about 4 cigarettes. Personally, I think it’s rude to plonk yourself next to someone and do nothing but blow smoke into their face. Perhaps she should have asked if I minded. I would, of course, have told her to go ahead, and then wouldn’t have been able to whinge about it.

I’m now speeding back to London through the Yorkshire countryside, past fields filled with blood red poppies, which look just wonderful in the sunshine. Back to London. Back to the grindstone. I suppose I feel slightly deflated, not least because I’ve lost a shoe – and not just any shoe. I brought an expensive pair of patent leather shoes at Christmas which I’ve absolutely loved. One of them seems to have dropped out of my suit bag and is probably already being used as a plant pot on a canal boat somewhere.
It is times like this that the precariousness of my financial situation becomes apparent. Obviously I can’t afford to shell out £100 for another pair of shoes – especially now that my computer seems to have gone on the blink – conveniently just as my two year warranty runs out. Signing on is all very well, but when something goes wrong, it’s almost impossible to dig yourself out of the hole. Which brings me to another question: How can a triple RTS Award winning filmmaker be unemployed? Am I just really bad at selling myself? Or do I need to acknowledge that these beautiful, award-winning community pieces are just not financially viable?

Head like an aubergine

Throughout this period, I’ve been listening to a song called Lights by Ellie Goulding. It’s a deeply hypnotic piece, which seems to be about the pain and turmoil of the present against the safety and comfort of the past. It feels oddly appropriate in my little cocoon. Life can be quite a scary place, I think.

350 years ago, and Pepys had a cold, which he felt was the result of his mucking about with tights off the previous day. He went to the Wardrobe and found Sandwich’s father, Edward Montagu staying there in his son’s absence. There were things Pepys needed to send on to the Lord; a spyglass and a triangular virginal; the sorts of things we’d all forget to pack if we were going to sea...

He went home feeling ill and sorry for himself and by keeping himself warm, managed to break wind, which eased the pain somewhat. Not quite sure how farting could cure a cold. Perhaps the word “cold” was a generic term for any kind of inexplicable illness in those days.
The RTS award which now sits on my mantlepiece


  1. Congratulations!
    Well deserved.

    Ashley x

  2. Many congratulations Benjamin, well deserved. Who is with you at the presentation? The gentleman looks a bit like Peter Ustinov.

    Do hope you are better soon and get the perfect job.