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making again, making new, other people's work, reflections, Thoughts

an open letter to Michael Pinchbeck (and Nottingham)

Dear Michael,

You don’t know me, but I feel as if maybe you should. I don’t mean to sound crazy when I say that, although I am aware that perhaps that can’t be helped. Last night you stood on a stage/theatre studio floor in front of me, and several others, and you said something about not knowing me, not knowing us, your audience – who of course sit in the dark.

So, in response I wanted to try and let you know the number of ways and times you’ve been present in my life. I don’t know if your presence means anything, but it feels worthy of noting, so it must mean something.

I grew up in Nottingham, long before I knew how I would make work in the future, when I dreamt of being an actress or an artist perhaps, I wore purple flares that I’d bought from that Vintage shop, near the theatre royal, on the way to the Victoria centre. I don’t know if you know it, you went up some wooden stairs, it was covered in photocopied flyers for gigs and band members wanted, it smelt of old clothes. It was a vintage shop before vintage shops were cool and expensive. I don’t think it’s there anymore. If it is still there, its probably expensive and probably not cool, at least not in that way.

Whilst wearing my purple flares I spent a lot of time at Angel Row gallery, in fact that art gallery was one of the most influential places on my work now. It was there we first met, when I picked up a flyer for ‘The Long and Winding Road’, well I wore flares, it follows that I liked the Beatles.

I took up the invite, I did email, I was asked to await further instructions but they never came.
I didn’t really know your name then. It’s not on the flyer. The ‘Steering Committee’ never got back to me. To be honest I forgot about you, I filed it away along with all the other bits of paper I picked up and kept from that time.

I heard about it again, later, something having happened outside of Broadway cinema. The Broadway is also in my list of the influential places in my life. Neat then that a little peruse of The Left Lion, recently led me to Deborah Pearson’s recent performance there, a ‘Hatch’ event. Another link.

Let me honest, at this point in my life, I have still not really heard of you, but as I mentioned I loved the sixties, the music, I spent a long time trying to be a hippy. When a new play came out called ‘The White Album’ I had to see it. It was on at the Nottingham Playhouse, another incredibly influential place. They used to do ‘price of a pint’ tickets for under 25’s, I saw a lot of amazing work there. I’d just started university in York, the show got a mixed press, I loved it. I defended it on the comment thread of an article on The Left Lion, I tried to find it, to hyperlink it here, but it’s disappeared into the virtual void.

I’ll be even more honest, I didn’t really take a note of the playwright’s name. Well Giles was directing it, that was as much as I needed to know.

It was year’s later then, which is another way of saying a couple of years ago from now that a younger student who was working with me mentioned your work, apparently she loved it. I tried to be intelligent, I mean I did recognise the name, but in her presence, trying to sound like I knew something, I agreed with her. I might have said, “Yes, it is, quite brilliant”.

She was going to the lecture you were giving at York St. John University. I went too,  I imagine I might have been sat with Andrew Brown, a fellow student at YSJ and a lecturer at Nottingham Trent, this is how he knew Hetain Patel. I wrote an essay on Hetain Patel for a second year, undergraduate assignment, after seeing his work in Angel Row gallery. Small world.
It was in that lecture that I joined the dots, I realised that I knew you, well your work anyway. It was weird. I came and spoke to you afterwards, explained these things. I think it came out a little odd.

Maybe there it would’ve ended, except for your website, which is one of my most useful sources of inspiration, I’d like to thank you for posting your CV on there. It has been a great help, just having a template for what is often termed an ‘artistic cv’ and knowing that being diverse in the work I make and who I make it with is okay. As have your blogs and process. I often use them as a source of inspiration if I’m having a blank page/can’t make anything/I’m just shit aren’t I, sort of a day. These have been a really, really great help. Nice to know someone reads them perhaps…. I couldn’t help but notice Mole in some of the video’s you have on your Vimeo channel. I’m almost certain that when I was in primary school and again in secondary school Reckless Sleepers came to do workshops with us. It’s times like that, which can inspire you as a kid, and so are perhaps in some small way the reason I’m writing this now.

And maybe there it also could end, except for a gift you made me with ‘The Ashes’. My Dad doesn’t really ‘do’ theatre, my great passion, it’s not really his thing, I’m struggling to recall if he’s ever been to see any of my work, perhaps the the primary school Christmas play. It’s not a criticism, like his Dad, my Dad likes cricket, it’s just I’d like to be able to share what it is I do with him. I bought us ticket’s to see the play, as a father’s day gift, better than whisky or socks. Something we can share together. Something we shared as a family. Thank you.

It was a strange crowd – I’m not sure it falls into all the Arts Council’s engaging new audiences stuff, but that show, that night, really seemed to have drawn quite the strangest mix of people, all interested in cricket, all sharing stories. It meant something to them, you could tell it was important. I’ve never experienced a theatre buzzing in quite that way before, it was really something. It was certainly something to me. Thank you again.

I noted in the back of the programme, in your bio, you’ve also worked with Hetain Patel. Smaller world. I did once think of writing him a letter to let him know he’d been the subject of that essay I’d written in 2007. That’s the sort of thing I’d like to know, I mean if someone ever wrote about me. I’m sure plenty of people have written about his work by now.

And so there Michael, it ends. The End, which I saw last night and seemed to speak to me, in my current performance makers block. Once again your presence, your work (and Ollie’s) floated a couple of creative bubbles to the surface, some pennies dropped. Lots of questions, lots of examples…. I am still looking for my own answers…  in my process at the moment. I am looking back a lot, trying to re-cycle, to make again, to begin again, if its possible to repeat a beginning. If its possible to repeat at all.

I like to think I might invite you to my next show.

I like to think I should move back to Nottingham, stuff always seems to be happening there, maybe I could happen there.

I like to think that I will be part of the great happening here, in York, instead.

Perhaps our paths will cross again, perhaps they won’t – but if you ever read this, and you say those lines again in performance, the line I wish I could quote, the line I’m not even sure you said now. Well I think you did, I think it was about never knowing who ‘we’, the audience are. Well now you do. Perhaps you will remember this, perhaps in some small part I will be remembered in that moment.

All the best,



4 thoughts on “an open letter to Michael Pinchbeck (and Nottingham)

  1. ‘You know my name. You know Ollie’s name. But we don’t know your names. We don’t know you at all.’

    Thank you Michael.

    Posted by gemmaalldred | November 6, 2011, 7:53 pm
  2. Hi Gemma

    This is lovely thank you. I have added to my blog at http://www.makingtheend.wordpress.com. Hope that’s OK with you.

    All best


    PS Sorry I didn’t get to say hello after our gig
    PPS Sorry I didn’t send you anything about The Long and Winding Road. I remember you emailing. But the initial list of names for the Steering Committee were lost in the early days of the project. But the project happened, over five years and the car made it into the Mersey, and was then crushed, and there is documentation on my website.
    PPPS Baklash is still there.

    Posted by Michael Pinchbeck | November 23, 2011, 11:02 pm
    • Of course, please re-post at will. Thank you for the thank you.

      I actually saw you and Ollie at Void Story on Saturday (I took my mum to that one!), didn’t want to appear like a groupie otherwise would’ve waved, although you looked fairly surrounded as it was!

      Baklash – of course, amazing! I wonder if it’s still as enchanting as I remember it.

      Posted by gemmaalldred | November 24, 2011, 12:30 am
  3. PPPPS Please do invite me to your show

    Posted by Michael Pinchbeck | November 23, 2011, 11:07 pm

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