Hannah has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and a background in teaching and education. She has written on a wide range of subjects including dementia, exile, the Burston teacher’s strike and the 9/11 memorial park, for journals, magazines and progressive news sites. Previously a Community Section writer for The Norwich Radical, Hannah re-joined the team in April-September 2017 as a regular Arts Section contributor.
Christmas in England this year made a festive looking smokescreen for the dirtiest of politics. Whilst civilians were stripping the shelves of Lidl of pickles, the PM and her cabinet were negotiating terms for exiting Europe for good—no one would see them slink away through the back door. In mid December the Brexit Impact Assessments, which had taken up most of civil service’s working week throughout the year, sat in a sagging pile on the Cabinet’s round table, resembling the Christmas cake which no one actually likes but must stay there reminding everyone of the hard effort some relative put in to making it. “Who has actually read these?” the PM asks. Silence, except for the shuffle of feet. She picks up the top file between her forefinger and thumb and waves it at the men sitting around her. “Has anyone read” –she pauses to peer at the title—“’Effects on Self-employed Building Site Managers’?” The Defence Secretary coughs and offers a response.
“That isn’t my area ma’am.”
“Esteemed colleagues,” the PM says to her cabinet, not unkindly. “Brexit is everyone’s area.”
(21.08.17) Post Truth Poem
On a blank white envelope was marked the word TRUTH
it was posted to a place called the Ministry of Lies
somewhere in the middle
of a blank white future.
The Ministry of Lies was a tall glass building with black and glinting windows
towering bullishly above the houses where the sleepy people lived
looking out but never inwards
with its half-shut eyes.
(05.07.17) – Review: Illegal by UEA Alumnus, John Dennehy
The topic of immigration has been a defining feature of European politics in recent times. Between January 2015 and October 2016 around 7000 people were camped in ‘The Jungle’, Calais – in woodland, ditches and fields, waiting for an opportunity to leave mainland Europe and enter the UK. Of this 7000, 62% were young men under 40 of non-European origin, and, according to the Help Refugees census, 761 were children. The images of these young people living in appalling conditions, seeking any means possible to cross the Channel were broadcast on news streams around the world. The British tabloid press called them the “swarm”; an “influx”. When thousands of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East broke through the Horgos borderbetween Hungary and Croatia in September 2015, the Hungarian police used teargas and water cannons to keep them back. These examples tell us that when humans move en masse, they cease to be human in the eyes of the authorities and the sensationalist press. Our values — the border between kindness and cruelty — has been interrogated like never before in our generation.
(22.07.17) – Interview with author and UEA alumnus John Dennehy
Your new book, Illegal, tells the story of your arrest and deportation from Ecuador and your consequent return over the Colombian border with the help of corrupt police. There’s also a love story which runs through it. Crime and love both sell books – was this thematic mix deliberate?
My original intent was to focus on borders and revolution but almost every person who read a draft, especially early on, wanted to know more about the love story. So I kept adding more with each new edit. We’ve all been in love so that shared experience makes it relatable and easier to digest. That common basis is a great launch pad to touch on everything else, too.
(08.07.17) – Review: Larry Sultan’s Here and Home, SFMOMA
Finding the right home for his pictures was a feature of Larry Sultan’s early career. Museums and galleries dismissed his satirical images—which played out an ironic commentary on modern American life—and found themselves on billboards scattered across America instead. Striking and immediate, perhaps they made more of an impact outside gallery walls.
Now Sultan’s photographs can be viewed in galleries including the Solomon Guggenheim Museum and SFMOMA, where his collection Here and Home is on view until July 23rd.
(24.06.17) – Generation AirBnB – San Francisco
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.
Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco. 1955
Aliyah has lived in San Francisco’s Mission district her entire life, which I estimate at being around twenty-eight years. Mission is the city’s working class and Latino area. She sleeps on the living room floor. The TV is on and throws intermittent light over her slumbering form, phone still in hand. I have to step over Aliyah on my way to her room—which I am renting through Airbnb for the week—and am careful not to wake her despite the blare of the TV. On the wall, beneath a tangle of half-deflated gold balloons left over from a party, is a giant poster of Whitney Houston—the queen of pop. Behind the water cooler is the silhouetted form of Michael Jackson—the king of pop—suspended on tippy-toes and ‘He Lives’ stencilled beneath.
Photographs of Aliyah and her husband smile back at me from heart-shaped frames that decorate the far wall and on a small, white canvas the words ‘Life is the Flower for which Love is the Honey’ are in poppy-red. One of a few splashes of colour in this windowless, dimly lit apartment.
(10.06.17) – A Memo to the Election
This is a missive from the past (June 3rd) to the future (June 10th). Futures are shady places where the detail is rubbed out; they nearly always keep us in darkness, because we saturate them in too much hope. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong: we should have shone a finer light between hope and cynicism. In Back To The Future, Marty McFly asks his girlfriend:“What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?”
(27.05.17) – Review: True Stories Live – No Regrets
CW: mentions of sexual assault
Think of your best friend, I bet they spin a good yarn. No doubt they think the same about you. The exchange of life stories is how the finest, most novel human bonds are made. It’s within these intimate, warm spaces where the stories of our lives unfold; cementing who we are, rooting memory, making kaleidoscopes of our imaginations.
This is the essence of True Stories Live—the invention of Norfolk producer Lucy Farrant and hosted by writer Molly Naylor.
(13.03.17) – Review: Letters to Windsor House, by Sh!t Theatre
Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit—aka Sh!t Theatre—are Generation Renters living in Windsor House on the Woodberry Down housing estate in Hackney. Their digs are dirty, cramped, noisy and downright dangerous—thankfully, the pigeon netting saved one of them from a fall off the balcony (which, incidentally, is covered in pigeon shit).
The kitchen is “fucking disgusting,” not to mention expensive at £1200 a month. This however, is the standard experience for thousands of London dwellers who have no hope in securing affordable, safe housing in England’s capital city. In Letters to Windsor House, Louise and Rebecca crack open a window and shine a light on the London housing bubble via this renegade piece of political theatre—a stimulating medley of storytelling, reportage, video, and Oliver inspired songs.
(08.05.17) – True Stories Live: No Regrets
True Stories Live is a beautifully simple idea which has blossomed since its inception a year ago. Each night promises to be engaging and entertaining, offering a storytelling space where the unexpected nearly always happens. The premise is straightforward, inviting members of the public to share their unscripted stories with an audience.
A theme is set for each night and storytellers are invited to workshops to help prepare for their performance. To date, themes have included: ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, ‘Forgive And Forget’, and ‘In Another Life’. A rich experience often including the intimate, the bittersweet and the darkly funny, drawing large audiences each time round.
Virginia Woolf stated in her 1929 seminal essay A Room of One’s Own that, because women remain unequal to men in society, they are less likely to succeed as writers. A writer has two basic requirements in order to write productively: an independent income which provides basic necessities—food and shelter— and uninterrupted writing time. In 1929, the majority of British women were either working to provide the basic necessities for others, and did not have a private space in which to pursue a creative life or an independent income. This, says Wolf, is why the literary canon is dominated by men. “Intellectual freedom,” she writes, “depends upon material things.”
Almost a century later, some women are still having to argue their right to a creative life.
(15.04.17) – Silent Europe
Vote only once by putting a cross (X) in the box next to your choice. My ballot paper reads like a lover’s ultimatum: Leave or Remain. There is no room on my ballot paper to explain, negotiate with, mediate between. All dialogue between us has ended. Now there is only silence lingering like the smell of damp coats.
Luke Wright’s eighth solo show The Toll is a razor dipped in sugar: Ian Duncan Smith is a “jiggling tit” and rumour has it that a lion stalks the good people of Essex. It’s an hour of truth or dare, but not without the candid insight that self-reflection demands of performance poetry. Wright connects with his audience through just the right amount of personal anecdote tinged with good times and bad, and a generous scattering of cultural and political satire.
Brexit, Question Time and John Betjeman. It’s all in there. This line is hard to walk when it’s just you on the stage—too much waxing-lyrical about good times with your mates and you’ll bore your audience. Equally, too much of the dark stuff and the lights go out. People don’t generally pay £12 to be brought down by bad news.
(27.01.17) – Norwich Stands up to Trump
Last Friday, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, people gathered all over the world to protest against his message of division and hatred. In Norwich, 200 people came together outside City Hall to attend a rally of our own. As well as hearing speakers from several local activist and community groups, the protesters took part in a symbolic stunt, dismantling a wall and building a bridge from the parts. Hannah was there, and Rowan helped organise – here they give us their takes on the event.
Art Fair East (AFE) is an annual contemporary visual art event showcasing emerging and established artists from East Anglia and around the globe, hosted by artists, galleries and dealers in St Andrews Hall – Norwich. 2016’s event was a hive of curiosity and arty repartee, with artists and agents on hand to engage and interact with visitors.
Director Tim Lane’s adaptation of Richard III is bone-chilling—and that’s not only down to the lack of heating in the Shoe Factory Social Club in Norwich. Shakespeare’s story of the wicked and rapacious King Richard is superbly located by Crude Apache in the disused factory space, which has been turned into a frightening vision of the future, an urban hinterland where people live in makeshift communities of cardboard boxes and behind wire fences. Exposed lights, metal girders and old sofas furbish the old factory; I could have been inside a modish bar in Hackney, or a punk squat in Berlin. The thumping techno beats made it all the more ethereal, and for a moment I was back at an illegal rave I once went to when I was twenty, except this one sold gin and tonics and cups of tea.
(23.11.16) – Now is The Winter of Our Discontent – Preview
The Crude Apache Theatre Company will be performing a striking adaptation of Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty Richard III at the Shoe Factory Social Club in Norwich. A post-industrial dystopian world awaits audiences, as the Company prepares to throw them into this sinister tale of the power-mad and murderous.
(11.10.16) – A Woman on Her Knees – Review of A Girl and A Gun
He is driving, she is hanging on his arm. Behind them a vista depicting a wide road disappears into desert upon a large screen. The cherry red of her lipstick matches her low-slung red dress, punctuated by a pair of cowgirl boots. Her dreamy expression says she’s completely at ease, hanging off her man; pleased as punch, because he is in control. But he has never seen the script before; he will be reading off an autocue. She is the one driving the show.
Performer-playwright, Louise Orwin, is touring the UK with her new theatre piece, A Girl and A Gun which was performed at Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Jean-Luc Godard’s adage “All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl,” is the springboard from which Orwin’s performance dives headfirst into a chilling reality which is anything but surface deep.
(28.09.16) – Trigger Warning: Louise Orwin’s A Girl and A Gun
“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl,” quipped Jean-Luc Godard. Images of scantily clad women waving weapons around are commonplace in the media. It’s troubling to think how often we consume this image: Charlie’s Angels with their high-heeled kicks and sniper rifles; Bond women emerging from the sea with a pistol stowed away in a pair of knickers, and even pop music’s favourite feminists — Beyoncé and Lady Gaga — wear matching white bodysuits and brandish plastic-looking revolvers whilst singing something about a telephone. Watch out, those gals are gyrating and dangerous.
(02.08.16) – We are Not Numbers: Norwich Speaks Out on Brexit
Norwich residents came together last month to show support for migrants after a Romanian shop was set fire to. On the same evening Norwich held a rally in favour of staying in the EU. The division was palpable that night. But the reality is that there are no two clear sides to the debate—there never was, even if the mainstream press had us believe it.
(21.07.16) – The Personal is Political: A Review of Tribute Acts
Tribute Acts is a bittersweet piece of autobio-theatre written and performed by Tess Seddon and Cheryl Gallacher from Theatrestate. Set against a space-age backdrop, Tess and Cheryl introduce their fathers via a pre-recorded video link. The dads look uncomfortable in their suits and ties. Their daughters are wearing spacesuits. The gulf between parent and child is obvious, and the unease is palpable.
(20.07.16) – Norwich Gathers in the Name of Unity
Norwich is reeling after The Village Shop, an Eastern European food store on Magdalen Street, was targeted in an arson attack in the early hours of July 8th. A brick was thrown through the window, waking owner Maria Purgen, and a fire then broke out inside. People in the nearby kebab shop came to the scene and shouted out to the family upstairs, who escaped via the backdoor. The emergency services were called and by 3:50am firefighters had extinguished the blaze.
Tiny cheerleaders, an umbrella on the moon, portraits of dead rock stars – all of these and more can be found in the uncanny paintings of Will Teather. Time’s inconsistency runs throughout this unnerving exhibition. Teather plays with time in a way that would be funny if it wasn’t so unsettling. But then again, isn’t that the mark of a significant piece of art? To catch the viewer unawares?
Last week I met with two mental health campaigners following an RSA-hosted event at St Michael’s Church called: ‘Combating Norfolk’s Growing Mental Health Problem.’ The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA), Manufactures and Commerce is a fellowship-led organisation, whose aim is to encourage “the sharing of powerful ideas to deliver a 21st century enlightenment.” I’d gone in the hope of being enlightened.
Sadly, I was not.
‘Can you define an audience the same way they define you?’ This was one of the questions asked by a young performer in Wild Life at the Norwich Playhouse, showcasing as part of the Norfolk and Norwich festival 2016. A question left hanging throughout the duration of the play, if that’s what it should be called. Wild Life is an extraordinary piece of metatheatre exploring the teenage psyche through a montage of music, performance, sound recordings, and monologues. Its cast is composed of ten 15-22 year olds from Norfolk, all with exceptional singing and songwriting skills.
Norwich strengthened its status as a Labour hold council at the local elections on May 5th, winning four seats from the Greens in Mancroft, Nelson, Town Close and Wensum. With this the case, it might seem surprising that the role of Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner went to Conservative Lorne Green, who quite comfortably beat Labour’s Chris Jones. Looking at the city result you quickly see that Jones was the preferred choice – by a 10,000-vote strong margin. So Norwich wanted Labour – but Norfolk didn’t. This result is a stark reminder of the difference in political opinion between the city and the rest of the county – a county where UKIP and Conservative have half the seats.
I cycled through a hailstorm last Saturday so that I could attend a Labour Party rally at the Silver Road community centre. The things we do for politics, I said to myself, hailstones pinging off my helmet. Clive Lewis, Norwich South MP, hosted the event with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who was making a visit on his campaign rounds in light of the upcoming local elections on May 5th.
The Norwich City Council election will be a significant juncture since Corbyn-mania. The Council is currently a Labour and Green hold, with 39 councillors and 13 elected wards: 22 Labour, 14 Green, 3 Lib Dem. Not a blue badge or Union Jack bowtie in sight.
(12.04.16) – Dangerous Women are Coming to Norwich
Can women’s voices be heard above the din of war? Silly question, really. It’s not how loud we shout, but what we do with our words that count. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) takes this tenet seriously – they’re feminist wordsmiths with a long history of using international legal and political frameworks to bring female voices into the peace process. And WILPF is coming to Norwich. The new WILPF branch will be the eighth such establishment in the UK, and will be formalised at their AGM on the 16th April 2016.
Who is your political role model? Mandela? Aung San Suu Kyi? I choose Harriet Martineau— one of Norwich’s very own, and the first female sociologist. But in a Year 11 assembly at The Hewett Academy on the 8th March (International Women’s Day), none other than Donald Trump was advocated as a role model for self-belief – and one that students should be taking notes from if they want to pass their exams. Forget Martin Luther King and forget Emmeline Pankhurst, please welcome to the stage the man who called for the complete shutdown of Muslim immigration, and whose political speeches are a gutter-stream of bigotry. Hewett Vice-Principal Antony Little (former Conservative local councillor) might equate Trump’s success to inimitable self-confidence, but others might put it down to simply having more money than sense. The truth – or at least a key part of it – is that Donald Trump does not have magical reserves of self-belief. He has simply been seduced by the skewed fantasy of himself.