Sunday, 10 April 2016

Midland spirit

I sat on a rail replacement bus today with a woman and her son. The lad seemed to be in a bit of a funk. He was annoyed because Mummy had taken him on a surprise trip to London and whatever she'd chosen to do had been "really boring." The mum was, understandably unimpressed, "in that case we won't come to London again" she said, in a sort of martyry way. "But I want to come next year," the child whined, "I just want to know what the surprise is going to be, so that I can tell you if it's something I want to do..." "In which case," she sulked, "you'll have to behave yourself on the way home. Do you think you can do that?" "No. Yes. No." Said the child. On and on it went, permeated by little high-pitched shrieks, which surged through my body like a fork in a pickled onion... I was wondering if a child should have the right to negotiate whether or not it's going to behave on public transport. No wonder the silly lad got bored on his special trip. He's plainly been indulged all his life. Sometimes defenestration is the only option!

I slept-in today. I must have put in about eleven hours, which is going some even for me. After waking up, I felt utterly incapable of doing anything other than sitting in front of the telly watching episodes of Storage Hunters. I've written about this show before. I find it utterly compelling. Nathan says sitting in front of it is wasting life. The premise of the show involves white trash bidding ever-higher sums of money on shite trash which they discover in reclaimed storage units. There are all sorts of brilliantly dreadful people, with names like Jessie and Brandon, who seem to have almost bottomless pockets when it comes to money. They all make a fortune out of the lots. The auctioneer tries to create the illusion of talking insanely quickly by inserting the word "brrrrrrah" between every word he says. I'm not sure why. I'm sure people think it sounds cool. I think it sounds like someone saying "brrrrrrrah."

They've tried to do something similar in the UK, but everything in the storage units over here seems to be absolute tat. The Brits bid restrained sums of money on the shite they're offered and nothing ever seems to yield a profit.

It's the same as the antique programmes on telly these days. We all know the value of everything and everyone is way too arch and obsessed with making a profit to let something go for a song. The winners of these terrible antique format shows are always the ones who make the smallest loss. Profits were a thing of the 1990s.

We watched The Voice last night. The standard of singing seemed very high, although I often wonder whether our standards go up and down depending on what we're watching. How many times have I heard a proud mother or auntie saying "I genuinely think that school show was West End standard..." I'm wondering whether the singers were merely good for a talent show or actually good by professional standards, but I enjoyed the ones I didn't sleep through and it's lovely to see Boy George as a guest.

The Voice has had an almost catastrophic record when it comes to artists (or "ar-ists" as Jessie J calls them) hitting the big time. To my knowledge, not a single person associated with the UK show has had a top ten single or album in their own right, which makes me wonder what the BBC is doing wrong. It's the same reason why I'd rather like Simon Cowell to take care of the Eurovision one year, because, like him or loathe him, I think he'd find the formula for British success. The BBC, on the other hand, can't be seen to be making a profit, marketing anyone, or getting involved in the external promotion of anything it makes. It used to have its own record label. These days, anything which it thrusts externally on the world has to be released for the Children In Need charity. It's sort of irritating. If we'd been able to spend the money which A Symphony for Yorkshire made when it was successfully released on DVD, I would have had enough to make another similar film, and another community could have benefitted. Much as I'm proud that the film made a shed load for charity, I'm also a bit sad that we couldn't make another one. BBC cuts have meant we've never been able to repeat the project. Boo!

I'm still a bit blue following Brass. It was such a special week, and the thought of re-entering a world where the emphases is on me to find more paid work is a depressing one. I hate hustling.

My work on Brass has made me think a great deal about the Midlands spirit. This is a bit of a generalisation, but I have noticed a tendency for young people from the Midlands to be not just somewhat inward-looking, but also incredibly back-footed. Where Northern and Southern kids exude confidence, I've noticed a real tendency for the Midlanders (and by this I mean those Midlanders who didn't have the benefit of being educated at a private school) to feel like they don't deserve opportunity, or worse still, a tendency to shun opportunity because they've been told by their peers that they're either not good enough, or somehow arrogant if they find an aptitude for something. "People like us don't have aspirations above our station." I recognise it wholeheartedly from my own upbringing, the witty Midlanders will crack jokes about how rubbish they are, how crap they look, how poor they are or how unintelligent they are, because that is the currency which they're expected to deal in. By and large, the Midlands kids I work with will need to be drawn out of their shells. They don't tend to hear about things like NYMT or the National Youth Orchestra. If they're aware of its existence, the assumption will be that they're not good enough to do it. I think a great deal of it comes down to lack of identity. When everyone argues about the North/ South divide, the Midlanders are assumed to align themselves with either one or the other rather than having their own proud identity. I have tried and tried to get Midlands initiatives off the ground, but no one is interested in the Midlands unless I'm proposing projects about the Asian communities in Birmingham or Leicester.


I would genuinely be interested to hear if anyone strongly agrees or disagrees with this statement. Has anyone else had this experience, or does my Northamptonshire shoulder-chip mean I'm noticing, or worse still searching for something which just isn't there? Answers on a post card.

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