June 2011 Archives
Birmingham writer and artist Michael Richardson began writing during the 1990s when failing eyesight affected his ability to paint.
His first novel, The Pig Bin, was published by Tindal Street Press in 2000; in 2001 it won the Society of Authors' Sagittarius Prize for best first novel of the year (Senior Section). Its sequel, Careless Talk, was published in 2007.
He's had short stories, articles and poems published in, variously, The Sunday Times, Mayfair, London Magazine, Private Eye and Raw Edge.
A completed third novel awaits publication and at present he is working on a book of related short stories.
Here is a selection of his poems:
A constant companion for any creative is the question 'Why on earth am I doing this?,' a close cousin of ' and Am I any good?'. In recent years, with little to show in the way of money or success, the question has been a regular visitor to my frontal lobes. Had I chosen a more sensible profession, I would be able to provide my family with more, perhaps even be useful to society. At times, to my mind, my only saving grace has been that throughout this period, I've always paid my taxes.
But just lately I've had a new reason to carry on. My son Jackson, nearing eleven years old, has a developing love of movies and indeed all things moving image. Although we don't like all the same things, there's plenty of taste cross over and we can pour over all the new releases and endlessly discuss their strengths and weaknesses. For the time being at least, we have a shared interest. And it's a wonderful thing.
But that's not all. He really likes my new film 'Turbulence'. And recently, as we have been editing and I've been bringing home different versions to watch, he has watched them with me. He's seen the film evolve over the past year, seen it shot and edited, refined and polished. This weekend we watched the final version of the front titles, which features animated versions of the characters. He whooped with joy as he spotted them appearing one by one. It was an awesome moment and very, very validating.
So... Jackson, I'd just like to say thank you very, very much for making this fathers day special.
Lots and lots of Love, Daddy (aka 'The Zids') xxx
Oh and p.s - thanks for the pumpkin heads and Homer corkscrew!!
It is curious that study of the natural world is called 'natural history', as if the main object is to look back. A new initiative in the Black Country however perfectly embodies the concept of natural history in looking back, interpreting the present and providing for the future. It is a network and website called 'distinctly black country' (http://distinctlyblackcountry.org.uk/). The website says: 'This is a new initiative to link people who are interested in the way the past has created the modern Black Country landscape. We also aim to describe the distinguishing features of it, and to encourage contact with the things that make it special and different.' The network is funded by English Heritage and hosted by Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage Service.
Too often the natural environment is treated in isolation, as if the geology, soils, flora and fauna of an area have no impact upon, or significance for, the lives, wellbeing and prosperity of the people living there. Distinctly Black Country is a rare and very appropriate example of bringing these things together. The importance of this tiny area to the development of global trade and industry cannot be understated, and this stems directly from its natural resources and characteristics. For its size it has the most complex geology in the world, and the associated coal, clay, limestone, iron and sand provided the raw materials for industry. Its high altitude, many hills and poor soils meant that until a couple of hundred years ago it was lightly populated, leading to the survival of extensive woodlands, which complemented the natural resources underground.
In this post-industrial age the open spaces left by some of the large areas previously taken up by factories, mines and quarries, as well as the canal and rail networks, the wetlands of the Tame and Stour valleys, the heath lands and the farms which survived amongst the factories, provide a green backdrop to everyday life. Such places, like Fens Pools, Sandwell Valley and Saltwells Wood are now invaluable for nature conservation, recreation and amenity.
The website explains how this has come to pass, and why we see what we see today in the landscapes of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and spilling over into south Staffordshire and north Worcestershire. It even touches on why the area is called 'The Black Country' although it misses the possibility that the name arises from the darker-skinned Britons who lived here before the roman invasion.
Most importantly the site provides links to a host of Black Country organisations and projects. Examples include the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust's Living Landscapes project, the Black Country Consortium, the Black Country Geological Society and the Black Country Living Museum.
This is a first class project which deserves to be emulated elsewhere. It demonstrates a real understanding of the crucial and continuing relationship between people's lives and the natural world.
I had an extraordinary day in Stratford last week, which I would like to describe in reverse order. Now, I've never been a fan of Stratford Upon Avon, which is a shame because my ancestors are from the area. I think its because the place never seemed to live up to the world famous name. Any time I've been there, I've felt as if I could just as well have been in any other Midlands Town and Solihull Town Centre in particular. Now, the end of my day in Stratford changed all that because I went to visit the new look Royal Shakespeare Company. The tower they have built on the edge of the building is a stroke of genius. You go up and suddenly you get a whole new perspective on things - the river, the church where Shakespeare is buried, the Warwickshire countryside around you. Suddenly, Stratford was much more than traffic jams, tourists and small houses, much more than shopping malls dressed in tudor beams.
Inspired by this I decided that the top of the tower was the best place to make a call to Turbulence producer Natasha Carlish and tell her about my afternoon at Stratford College. Julia and I had just shown the film to thirty three 17 year olds who had been very enthusiastic indeed. Natasha had also shown the film in Hereford that day and we exchanged notes excitedly. Indeed, Stratford may have been a breakthrough moment. Whilst older audiences have been positive about the film, it felt as though this age group wanted to 'wear the t shirt', they wanted to make it theirs. This is going to be so vital to our film because we have none of the tools available to a big budget movie and our success will be built entirely on an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Perhaps the feeling in the room can be summed up by one audience members description of watching the film -
'It was like going to a party. At first you don't know anyone, then you relax, have a drink maybe, and then by the end you think I JUST LOVE THESE PEOPLE!'
My own feeling at the top of the tower, on a sunny afternoon, after a screening like that can be summed up by the bard -
'My crown is called content, a crown that seldom Kings enjoy'