Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Fun on walls (and elsewhere)


Along with over 90 other projects, my word-a-day picture-poem will be part of this exhibition in Dundee in April. Looking forward to seeing all the work offline and helping out over the weekend too.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

The End



So I made it to the end of the Funaday Dundee month-long project. I posted 31 illustrations/images - one a day for all of January - and each one featured one main word with all 31 making a poem (a happy poem, a positive poem, even, possibly, an inspirational quote-type poem*). I don't write that kind of thing very often but it's good to flex all the muscles, right? You can see the full thing on my Instagram or Twitter and the image above is the one posted yesterday on the 31st January. I wrote the poem back in December and didn't for a minute think about the fact that I would be posting something about parting on the day the UK left the EU (no Brexit parties here!). I didn't even realise the possible connection until long after I had posted it! For me it feels like England, at least, left the EU a long time ago. Currently a lot that is bad about England (and indeed humankind) is getting a boost, feeling chuffed with itself, strutting around thinking it will always get things its own way. I haven't lived in England since 2002. I don't miss it. 

I started the Funaday project with nothing but the poem (31 words, one for each day of January, and no word repeated) and beyond that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I really enjoyed that aspect of the activity - the unknown, the unplanned, the surprise! As I found myself using a musical link to prompt the illustration for 'Start' on 1st January (see last post) I just continued with that for the rest of the month and it took me to all sorts of unexpected places (Mary Poppins on a skateboard on 19th January for 'proud', Rabbie Burns in a 1970s suit on the 20th for 'burn' - some help from the daughter to get to that mash-up!). As a non-artist (non visual artist anyway) I did a fair bit of googling ('how to draw a...', 'different kinds of Motown record labels and logos...') and each day I listened to the songs that I was referencing (as much as I could... I didn't really plan on using Bonnie Tyler but the desire to have an 'eye' picture was too great so in she went for 'turn' on the 17th!). Otherwise I was very happy to spend a lot of January in the company of many old acquaintances - Michael Marra, the Supremes & the Temptations, Inner City, Judy Garland, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, David Bowie, The Beatles, Gil Scott Heron, Nina Simone, Cara Dillon (her version of the traditional song 'The Parting Glass' being the main song I had in mind for the word 'part' on 31st January and therefore the image at the top of the post), Corinne Bailey Rae, Johnny Dickinson, En Vogue and others. I found lot of disco music making its way into the reference selections too (for a few years in the late 1970s disco music was most definitely one of my favourite things). And every now and then I found the radio giving me a reference that I didn't know I needed (Lauren Laverne played Queen's 'Play the Game' early in January on her 6 Music Breakfast Show and that was perfect for 'play' on 23rd January). You still hear a lot of Queen songs all over the place (I'd happily never hear 'We are the champions' again, likewise 'We will rock you') but you don't hear 'Play the Game' so much, in my experience, so in it went (at number 23 pop-pickers!). 23rd January is also my birthday so I spent a good part of it this year drawing a playing card with Freddie Mercury and Brian May's faces (or something vaguely like them) where the queens' should be. I didn't google to see if someone else had done this before (though I just have and you can buy shirts with Freddie as Queen of Hearts - I can't see anything with Brian, which is a shame as he suits the outfit). Some days I had more time to devote to the project than others (and this is reflected in the detail of the drawings at times!).

And now it's over (or sort of over). There is an exhibition (in a place/gallery space - not just online) for Funaday in Dundee in April so I may well do something with all these images for that. A friend suggested they might work as a book of some kind... I also quite like the idea of putting them in transparent record sleeves and either them sticking them up on the wall like that and/or having them in a box of some kind so you can flick through them like you would in a record shop (some of my earliest happy memories involved listening to 7 inch singles, some of my own but many more bought by any one of my 5 older siblings). If I had planned in advance I might have made the original artworks the exact size of 7 inch singles to make this work better (in fact they are a little smaller than that at 15cm squared). But as I say, very little planning was involved. Spontaneous creativity, don't you know. 

*The poem is below. I don't particularly have a title for it but I'll see what happens as I work with the images a little more. It echoes a lot of my regular themes I think (not that anyone else will necessarily notice). For instance I can feel a link back to a fairly old poem of mine called 'Just the one song' (it's in my 2007 'More about the song', though I can't see it online). We need to share a bit more than we do (space, time, stuff, responsibility...). It is hard (but then so is trying to draw Freddie Mercury on a playing card when you're not an artist!) but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying. As it says in the film 'Jojo Rabbit' (which I loved!), we should do what we can.


Start with fun
And make a mark,
Hold your nerve,
Don't fear the dark,
Open boxes,
Turn up proud,
Burn down sadness,
Play out loud.
Help is art,
Just take part.


Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the images. May 2020 have more fun and less fascism.

x


Friday, 3 January 2020

Starting over



There are definitely some challenges this year! 1. Save the planet, 2. Protect ourselves and others from the right wing leaders that people vote for because (fill in long list of reasons here), and 3. Stay sane (despite 1 & 2). Living in Scotland I don't feel too despairing in terms of politics (yet) but, in terms of people I know, I do feel for both some of my friends and family in England (Tory Hell Forever) and for my brother and sister in law in Australia (where it is simply Burning Like Hell). And that's just my pretty small circle (never mind the wider world). It's hard not to hear words like 'doomed' rattling around. 

Speaking of words, not much poetry business from me just now but partly because of this I am contributing to an on- and offline project called Funaday Dundee. Anyone can take part and you just have to make something every day for the whole of January (or as often as you can manage) and post a picture of your work (mainly on Instagram). It is Dundee-based but you don't need to be in Dundee to do it. There is painting, knitting, and all sorts of things going on but I am drawing a word every day, illustrating it (to a point... I'm not an artist) and adding in connections with songs and lyrics (because that just happened once I began with 'Start' - see image above). 'Start' was always one of my favourite songs by The Jam (and if this page on the internet is correct Paul Weller wrote it after reading Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia'). At the end of the month my 31 words will all add up to make a (fairly simple) poem (and it will rhyme). I may or may not show them all in the exhibition that takes place later in the year (each word is on a 15 cm paper square - no computers involved) but so far I have 1st Jan 'Start', 2nd Jan 'with' and 3rd Jan 'FUN'. You can follow my contributions here if you so desire. I haven't bought any fancy stuff to do this and am just using up things that are already in the house. 

So let's see how much of 2020 we can cope with, shall we? 


Thursday, 17 October 2019

Play for today?





                

Around Xmas time last year I wrote a wee play about mental health, music and much, much more (sorry, alliteration is a sickness...). I think if this piece had a subtitle it might be 'Waiting for Barlow'. Nothing much as happened with it so I thought I'd post it here for anyone who wants a look.  







'Tick Here' 
A short play 
for 6 actors

by

Rachel Fox


                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                               
Setting
Five actors are lying on their backs on the stage. Their feet meet in the middle of the stage and they are spaced out in a circle like too many hands on a clock. The lights are low but spotlights shine on each one of the actors. Each one of the five is wearing a top (t-shirt/hoodie) in a different colour (one is in red, one blue, one purple, one green, one yellow).
                       


RED
              (singing)
Forget your troubles, come on, get happy.
          (short pause, more singing, a little louder)
Forget your troubles, come on, get happy.
              (long pause, more singing, louder again)
Forget your troubles, come on, get happy.

                        BLUE
              (impatient)
Do you not know the rest of that song?

                        RED
              (annoyed)
Of course I do.

                        BLUE
Why don’t you sing it then?

                        RED
Because I’m a broken record, didn’t you know? That’s my thing.
         
                        BLUE
Oh, my god, I said that one time!

                        PURPLE
I think you mean ‘once’. And you’ve said it loads of times.

                        BLUE
              (snide)       
So you’re saying I’m a broken record for saying Red’s a broken record?
                       
PURPLE
I believe I am.

                        BLUE
Well, that’s great. Thanks.

                        PURPLE
You’re welcome. I don’t see why you should get away with criticising Red. We’re all stuck here. None of us is any better than anyone else. Someone has to keep you under control.

                   BLUE
And it always (pauses) has to be you.

                   PURPLE
If the song fits…

                   BLUE
But they’re not even the right words to ‘Get Happy’! And is that really the best song to be singing? Here? Now? It’s crap enough just being here (spreads arms out) – we don’t have to turn it into some cheesy Andrew Lloyd Webber (waves arms) muuuusical shhhhhhow.

                   GREEN
I prefer ‘Get Happy’ to (warbles) ‘Memory’.

                   YELLOW
          (laughs)
Or (sings, in an exaggerated way)‘I wore my coat…’

                   GREEN
Don’t, don’t! That song is the worst! As if I’m not in enough pain.    

                   YELLOW
(singing) ‘Don’t cry for me…’?

                   GREEN
(giggling)
(singing) ‘Frank and Tina...’  

                   YELLOW
And I’ve never even seen (sings, over-dramatically) ‘The Phaaaantom of the Opera is’…

                   BLUE
          (tight-lipped)
And now you never will, I’m glad to say. You two can’t sing for coffee.

                   GREEN
          (laughing)
Now you’re criticising us too! You’re pathetic.

                   BLUE
          (deadpan)
We’re all pathetic.

          (silence)

RED
          (half sitting up, leaning on elbows)
So, anyone know any good jokes?

                   PURPLE
I think we know the answer to that.

                   RED
          (lying back down)
You know me – ever hopeful.

                   BLUE
Sometimes that’s you. Other times you think the world is coming to an end if anyone even dares to breathe near you.

                   GREEN
Well, isn’t it? And at least some of us have more than one mood. You’re just miserable and gloomy (spreads these last 3 words out in a droning voice) all… the… time.

                   BLUE
Show me something to be cheerful about, why don’t you? Got an exciting day planned? Going out to see the sights?
                  
GREEN
Well…(pause). It’s not raining. It’s worse when it’s raining.

                   YELLOW
Good point.

GREEN
And today my overall body pain is maybe only a 7 out of 10 so I am comparatively (sings – to Nina Simone tune) ‘feeling good’.

                   BLUE
          (sarcastic)
Your positivity is so charming.

                   YELLOW
(reaching a hand out towards GREEN)
You know I’d do something about the pain if I could.
                  
GREEN
I think we all want to help each other. It’s just so difficult.

                   BLUE
Speak for yourself. If I got a chance to get away from this stupid thing I would be off like the clappers, no looking back, no helping hand for anyone.

                   PURPLE
You say that. You think it makes you sound cool.

                  
BLUE
By this point we’re all a little past cool, don’t you think? And p.s. could you stop trying to get all the votes for class president or whatever it is you’re after? It’s not like we could even get to the ballot box. The only one of us that ever gets to move is that Orange idiot and what a waste of freedom they are.

ORANGE
(from one of the back rows of the audience)
     I can hear you, you know.

                        BLUE
See what I mean? Gets to swan about on legs and everything and does what with them? Sits up there listening to us in case we say anything a teensy weeny bit critical.

                   YELLOW
          (gently)
That attitude isn’t helpful.

                   BLUE
Boo hoo.

                   ORANGE
In fact it’s exactly that friendly, welcoming manner that keeps me over here.

                   PURPLE
How are you doing anyway? Seen anything interesting? Been anywhere?
   
ORANGE
          (staccato, twitchy)
I’ve thought about a few things, had a few plans. But it was all too much. (ORANGE looks distracted). Everything’s so expensive. And it takes so long to get anywhere. And everywhere’s too busy. So I just stayed here.

                   BLUE
(whines) ‘Don’t go breaking my heart…’

                  
GREEN
Elton John!
                  
                   YELLOW
Kiki Dee!

                   GREEN and YELLOW together
P-I-S-S-I-N-G!

          (RED, GREEN and YELLOW laugh)
                   BLUE
You should send that to Lloyd Webber. He might find a use for it.

                   GREEN
(sings) ‘We will, we will shock you!’

                   YELLOW
(sings)‘Mamma mia, here I go again… can’t stop, running to the toilet…’

                   PURPLE
I think that one needs a bit of work.

                   BLUE
Plus ‘Mamma Mia’ wasn’t a Lloyd Webber show.

                   GREEN
You’re quite the expert. Seen ‘Chess’ have we?

                   BLUE
That isn’t one of his shows either. Jesus.

                   RED
That was though – (sings) ‘Jesus Christ… superstar…’

                   GREEN and YELLOW
(sings) ‘Can’t change the tyres on my grandad’s car’.

                   RED
I just like songs. I’m not so fussed about who they’re by.

                   BLUE
Well, you say that but even you weren’t keen on that Gary Barlow when he was here last year.

                   RED
That’s true.

                   PURPLE
Yes, I think that’s one thing we can all agree on.

                   BLUE
              (dramatic, ghostly voice)
Nooooo Baaaaaarlooooow.

                   GREEN/YELLOW
              (in squeaky high voices)
(not sung) ‘Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it…’

                   RED
I once had a dream where Robbie Williams was a dog who kept trying to shag my leg (waves leg in the air).

                   GREEN
(sings ABBA’s) ‘I had a dream…’

                   RED
It was quite disturbing. And dreams mean so much here that it felt like a waste.

                   BLUE
I’ve had it with dreams. I would so love something real. Real food…

                   GREEN/YELLOW
(sing) ‘Food glorious food…’

                   BLUE
Anything. (calls up to ORANGE) Can’t you bring us something to eat? I can hardly remember what flavours feel like on my tongue.
                  
RED
You know we don’t get anything. Sometimes I understand why, sometimes I don’t.

                   YELLOW
I never understand anything. But I suppose at least we have each other.

                   BLUE
Oh, it’s quite the summer camp.

                   RED and GREEN
(sing ‘Dirty Dancing’ song, hold arms out) ‘I had the time of my life…’

                   BLUE
We get the point.

                   PURPLE
What would you rather we all do? Moan, moan and moan some more?

                   BLUE
Maybe we could try it… just once. See if it’s better than all the bloody singing.

                   ORANGE
Moaning is a really bad idea. It could all change at any time. You have to be ready, stay open to opportunity, be positive.

                   BLUE
I’m not sure I want to be lectured at by someone who has a way out and can’t even take it.

                   PURPLE
Leave Orange alone. What have they ever done to you?
                  
BLUE
Wasted a chance, that’s what! While we’re stuck here. It’s not fair.

                   ORANGE
I’m stuck too. It just looks different.

                   BLUE
It certainly does.

                   ORANGE        
You’re so sure of everything. I can’t imagine what that feels like. I’m never sure about anything.

                   BLUE
It’s easy. ‘Are you sure you can’t get up?’ I say to myself. And look (BLUE tries to lift their body up off the floor), nothing. Stuck here like a giant fridge magnet.

                   RED
I dream I get up sometimes. I’m running around like a little kid, skipping, jumping.

                   PURPLE
I think we all have those dreams.

                   BLUE
Not me. I’ve just switched off that bit of my brain.

                   GREEN
No dreams at all? (Giggles) Not even sexy ones?

                   BLUE
Especially not those. What’s the point?

                   YELLOW
Dreams don’t have a point.

                   BLUE
Well, they do actually. They’re just your brain sorting out all the stuff it’s done in a day and working it all through. But as we never do anything here there’s nothing to sort out is there?

              (A pause)

                   RED
You are the downer to end all downers.

              BLUE
No song? No peppy pick-me-up with a jaunty tune? No (sings) ‘Oh what a beautiful morning?’ No (sings)‘Hakuna matata’?

                   RED
No, I think maybe you have driven any last joy even from me today. (RED rolls over to face the floor)

                   BLUE
‘Today’? Like we can tell one day from another. When did we last see the sun? Or a proper night?

          (pause)
                   GREEN
How long do you think it’s been?

                   YELLOW
Thinking about that makes it worse, doesn’t it?

                   BLUE
Please tell me how this could be worse? Enlighten me! Really.

          (pause)
                   GREEN
I can’t even think of any more songs. I’m trying to think of one but there’s nothing.

                   YELLOW
Me neither. Usually my head is full of them but I’ve nothing.
             
                   PURPLE
Well done, Blue. Another successful intervention.

                   BLUE
This is hardly my fault. I’m just honest, more honest than the rest of you.

                   ORANGE
Yes, you fill our tortuous time with all that refreshing, scintillating honesty. We’re so grateful.

                   BLUE
Oh, come on! Can’t you just (with sarcasm) ‘pack up your troubles and just get happy’? Can’t you ‘chase all your cares away’? What’s wrong with you all? What a bunch of losers (laughs)– no wonder you ended up here! This is the promised land, didn’t you know? This is exactly what we were promised. We just didn’t believe it. We thought there was no way it could be this crap. But it is.

                   ORANGE   
But you can’t leave it like that. There are people watching us, hoping for signs, wanting answers, wanting endings.

                   BLUE
What people? I don’t see any people.

                   ORANGE
Here, look! (ORANGE moves along a row, faces of the audience showing in the spotlight) They can’t just leave here, get on the bus, go home to bed and think about this… How depressing!
                  
PURPLE
They can go to the bar, I suppose.

                   BLUE
They’ve probably already been. I could never get through anything in the theatre without a few drinks inside me.

                   YELLOW
We’re in a theatre?

                   RED
Is it ‘Black Mirror’? Are we in ‘Black Mirror’?

ORANGE
I don’t know. The audience seem kind of live. (ORANGE pokes an audience member)

                   YELLOW
You’re with real people? I’m so jealous.

                   ORANGE
Well, you’re down there with all the others. That makes me jealous. Crowds of strangers just make me anxious.

                   BLUE
Everything makes you anxious.

                   ORANGE
Yes, except you, you just make me sad.

                   BLUE
You’re a nervous wreck.

                   ORANGE
You’re a miserable bastard.

                   YELLOW
I’m nervous and miserable. What does that make me?

                   BLUE
Sometimes I wish I’d just said yes to ‘Big Brother’. It might have been more entertaining.

                   PURPLE
I think that’s the only show that’s not been made into a musical.
                   BLUE
I think you’ll find there was one in development a few years ago…

                   RED
I still can’t think of any tunes – not one. It’s like someone has sucked them all out of my head with a vacuum cleaner. Can anyone remember that Monty Python song? Something about life?

                   GREEN
Or some Proclaimers? They always used to cheer us up.

                   YELLOW
It’s true. I’m getting nothing. It’s like talk radio in my head.

                   BLUE
Now there’s a bad memory.                  

                   PURPLE
But, you see, Blue, the days are different from each other after all. This, apparently, is the day we lost music.

          (long pause)

                   BLUE
It’s funny. I kind of miss the songs now they’re gone.

                   PURPLE
Even the crap ones?

                  
BLUE
Maybe.

                   GREEN
Even the ones by Gary Barlow?
                  
BLUE
There’s no need to get carried away. I still have some standards.

                        YELLOW
     So what do we do now? I feel so empty.

                        PURPLE
Poetry it is then… I’ll start, shall I?