Monday, 23 April 2012

Meet: Simon Mole

I first met Simon a little over 2 years ago. Together - with the help of the Keats House Museum - Simon and another poet named Raymond Antrobus founded the Keats House Poets Forum. (A group of 'young' poets, that I am very proud to be apart of.)

I met Simon at the first meeting and he quickly became one of my favourite writer/performers. A very dedicated writer, he can do what - in my opinion - only a small select group of writers can do. Unlike most Spoken Word Artists, Simon writes as well as he performs and performs as well as he writes. 

On Fridays

...I work at a Pupil Referral Unit, with secondary school kids who are no longer in mainstream education. I do spoken word, rap, and generally just help out wherever needed. This means the young people that go there know me in a different way to those at schools or youth clubs that I visit solely as an artist. They recognise that “sir can spit bars you know” but I am definitely not a special visitor to be treated with respect and immediately listened to. One lesson I supported in a while back was supposed to focus on the London Riots. It began with two students dragging gym mats in to the IT room and wrestling full tilt until forcibly separated, and ended with the now oft-quoted line “I’m feeling for a riot right now bruv” as the student in question shook the computer monitor he was watching news footage on from side to side. At points they do my head in on a level beyond any other young people I’ve ever worked with, but there is a character and energy to most of them that I feel a strong connection to.
I have worked with one group on and off for nearly two years, and although we get on well, I have found engaging them beyond ten minute bursts to be a huge challenge. One day I decided to try a new approach based around the premise that they would create a character as a group, with a few ideas about background and context, and then before our next session I would write the intro to a film script based around this character. Their first suggestion was a teacher who only works one day a week ‘because the rest of the time he’s out getting fucked at the raves’. I reminded them of my busy and productive work schedule the rest of the week. They countered: “But look at your eyes sir, they’re massive. Don’t lie, I know you love to get on it. Drum and Bass sir, dubstep. At a festival, in a dirty little field. Getting on it.”

Their next suggestion was a man who dresses like an orthodox Jew but is in fact ‘an absolute nutter’ who pulls off his hat and wig at any opportunity to headbutt people and shout his catchphrase: “LET’S FUCKIN ‘AVE IT!”

After explaining to them that I would like to keep my job if at all possible, I then proceeded to allow them to keep the catchphrase for their next character. A 20 year old milkman with a gambling problem who drinks too much and smokes too much weed. His substance intake means he’s paranoid, and he’s got a phobia of pigeons. They rolled on, suggesting that he puts his last money on a horse called ‘run-down life’ and at some point ends up using the betting slip as a rizla, feeling stupid to have bet on the horse, then some bad shit goes down somehow to the point that he commits suicide. The last thing he sees on the telly is ‘run-down life’ winning. It’s too late and he dies.

I was blown away, both by the darkness of the suggested story, and the quick fire creativity that this approach had inspired. After chatting with the head, we decided it was ok to keep the drugs and drink and gambling in the story, as these are real issues for young people in the area – and crucially, their narrative would be exploring the damage that misuse of these substances can cause.

The first week I brought back the intro to the film was one of the best feelings I’ve had over seven years working creatively with young people. The whole group sat in silence and listened as I read to them for 10 straight pages, before giving impassioned and honest feedback that improved the script no end. The project is drawing to a close now, with similarly focused readings and responses each week. There have been a few twists and turns along the way (I still cannot reveal at this stage whether the end remains as initially suggested!) but if you ever see I’ve written a short film featuring a pigeon fearing milkman, you’ll know to make sure that I’ve credited it properly!

Written by Simon Mole 

Now, if you're not already familiar with Simon and his work - especially if you like your Spoken Word but even if you don't - check him out online and onstage and be sure to watch the excellent promo video for 'The Say Yes Think No Syndrome'.

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