Sunday, 31 July 2011

Read, Write, Make Love (From My Notebook)

'Read and write - that is the life. Run and exercise to make your body tired and strong. Talk with the person you love. Make love with the person you love. Keep with their eyes, offer all that you are up to your love, even your darkness.... and then sleep and read...'

Monday, 25 July 2011

An Open Letter to my MP regarding the attacks in Norway and Links in UK

Dear Craig Whittaker

I hope this note finds you well.

As our MP I would ask you to raise the question of investigating links between the EDL, and other Right Wing groups, and the attacks in Norway when you next meet in the House of Commons. It is clear from the perpetrator’s statements and online activities that such connections exist. As in other matters of national security and threat the UK has been rigorous in perusing connections and groups. It now seems clear that the Right Wing in the UK is an enemy within, working against the interests of the country and its standing in the world, and must be brought into the light.

In our own locality there has been a marked rise in agitation from the ‘Right Wing’.

The head of the Quilliam think-tank recently said: "The horrific events in Norway are a reminder that white far-right extremism is also a major and possibly growing threat."

It’s not hard to see that the fascistic values of the 20th Century are still alive, and in fact tolerated more openly today, of course the focus of that hate has been reoriented, and is often used for political gain and creation of separation in communities. As the upstanding Member of the house you appear to be. I hope you will press for action against this rising problem.

Just as with other threats, Christian and Right Wing Fundamentalism, and Terrorism, need to be dealt with in the same manor; moderate Christians and 'Right leaning' people must speak out against these people, and do more to weed them out within their own communities. The onus is most certainly on those who are complicit by association.

There needs to be dissuasive treatment at airports, police stop and search, a scheme for informants within churches and meetings to be able to notify the authorities and I’m sure there are many other things we don’t know of in place that can be adapted to these necessary ends.

I trust many of these matters are being discussed today, I ask you though for your vigilance in perusing these questions in the light of the large amount of Right Wing activity in West Yorkshire in recent times.

Yours Sincerely

John Siddique 

Jill Scott - On Haters

'...people​ who are gonna be haters never affected me until I started noticing it, seeing that there were people, family, friends, who were angry to see me revealing my blessings,​ wishing they were me. I had to let go of some people in my life because of that. It’s been healing for me to say I’m still gonna be me, to say to those people, ‘go right ahead, whatever you say won’t change my destiny.’ - Jill Scott

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Culture Diaries - Valerie O’Riordan

Valerie O’Riordan is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA in the University of Manchester. Her short fiction has been published widely online and in print, she was the winner of the 2010 Bristol Prize, and she was short-listed for the 2010 Bridport Prize in the flash fiction category. She used to work as a video editor in broadcast television, but these days she’s juggling novel-writing with baby-feeding. 

Monday July 11th
Today - oh, evil Monday - was dominated by writing-related paperwork; a tangentially cultural activity. As well as filing last year’s tax return (a pitiful document), I sent off my funding application to the Irish Arts Council. The biannual deadline for literature bursaries for Irish writers is this Thursday. I’ve been working on my first novel since finishing my Creative Writing MA last autumn, so I’ve asked for a grant to fund me while I work on the final draft this coming winter. It’ll be at least ten weeks before I hear back from them, and in the meantime, the current (second, third? I‘ve lost count) draft is far from healthy, so after the application was sent, I spent a couple of hours hacking and swearing at a malfunctioning chapter. I’ve got a very young baby in the house (three months next week) so there’s no such thing as an extended writing period. I swapped writing for critiquing later in the evening; I’m part of two writers’ groups, one online and one offline, and the offline group meets tomorrow, so I had to finish reading and commenting upon three pieces of work - two novel extracts and a short story. Terminator 2 wrapped up the day - tea and popcorn in front of the telly. Nice.

Tuesday July 12th
I read all about art exhibitions today. Well, I proofread a section of my partner’s fine art PhD dissertation. He has to evaluate his own work as part of the assessment process for his practice-based PhD programme, so I was reading over the summary of his last four years of exhibitions - like keeping this diary, it made me reflect on how much had happened over that period, and how much I’d forget if it wasn’t documented. And then I watched Gilmore Girls on E4. This is a massively addictive show, and my main lunch-time treat and guilty pleasure. They run the series back-to-back constantly but I’ve still not seen every episode. Now, that’s a goal. At six o’clock, my writing group, Inklings, met in the pub for pints and gossip and a smidgeon of serious discussion, and I apologised for the shoddy handwriting in yesterday’s notes. I think I blamed the baby. 

Wednesday July 13th
Wednesday was subdued. We drove to Bristol to attend the funeral of a good friend’s father. Listened to Modest Mouse CDs in the car on the way down - their first album, This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About, had become our official motorway CD. It’s probably my favourite album of all time, bleak and desperate as the lyrics are - and there’s a song about Dramamine, which makes my motion-sickness feel all special. Patti Smith’s Horses went on repeat for the return journey. Both of those albums I bought when I was on a student working visa to the USA eleven years ago. That makes me feel old. At home, I did a bit of writing/brainstorming; I’ve been asked to contribute to a new flash fiction anthology and I’ve got about three weeks to sort something out. Later I watched Kidulthood, on, I think, BBC3; I like teen dramas and urban settings, but this film was really disappointing - all stereotypes and no fresh thinking.

Thursday July 14th
I spent the morning reading Alan Hollinghurst’s new book, The Stranger’s Child - I’m reviewing it for Book munch - but as it’s massive and my reading-speed has slowed since the baby arrived, I’m only about a quarter of the way through and I’m not sure what to make of it, yet. Then I listened to an old Guardian books podcast from April, featuring Jennifer Egan, whose A Visit From The Goon Squad won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I’ve got one of her earlier books, The Keep, but I’ve yet to read it. Goon Squad sounds fantastic though, and pretty experimental, which I like, so I think I should shunt Egan closer to the top of the ’read soon’ list.  Then I did a very small spot of novel-editing before hooking the computer up to the telly and watching the first episode of The Killing on 4OD before catching the second one on C4+1. I like a good crime thriller, though I rarely read crime fiction. There’s a contradiction there that I should rectify.

Friday July 15th
This morning I ordered A Visit From The Goon Squad from Waterstone’s after realising that I had five pounds worth of Waterstone’s points on my account. I buy less books than I used to these days because I’ve always got plenty to review and there’s only so much room in my flat, but there’s nothing like a brand-new book - the smell of the paper! - to get me excited. I read a little more of the Hollinghurst, but that was about it; we’re off to Bristol tomorrow for this year’s Bristol Short Story Prize award ceremony, so packing dominated the rest of today. It’s amazing how much baggage a tiny baby necessitates. Nappies, I curse thee.

Saturday July 16th 
After a stop-off in Ikea outside Birmingham, we reached Bristol at lunchtime. I read the first couple of pages of Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture in the hotel room before heading over to the Arnolfini for the literary shenanigans. (I’ll be reviewing Barry’s new book soon, and I’ve had The Secret Scripture sitting unread in my bedroom for two years now, so it’s time I cracked that spine.) Then we headed off to check out the very first ever ShortStoryVille, a day-long festival celebrating the short story, culminating in the prize-giving for the Bristol Prize itself. Joe Melia (aka Mister Bristol Prize) did himself proud sorting this one out - I’m only sorry we didn’t get to every event. We arrived in time to hear Stuart Evers and Helen Oyeyemi read from and talk about their recent books; after that, I had to stand in front of the crowd and introduce the final event, a series of readings from local writers, including Tania Hershman, who’s on the judging panel for the Bristol Prize itself. I won the Prize last year, so that’s why I was subjecting the audience to my ramblings. After the readings, and the Prize ceremony, I bought a copy of the anthology with all the winning stories and got it autographed by this year’s winner, Emily Bullock, before catching up with billions of writing pals in the bar, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a year, others whom I’d never seen in the flesh before. All very tiring. Back at the hotel we went for a late-night swim - is that cultural? It certainly felt fancy.

Sunday July 17th
Before driving back to Manchester we popped back into the Arnolfini to see their current exhibition - Haugue Yang with a bit of Felix Gonzalez-Torres thrown in - which we’d missed yesterday, and it was excellent. I’d really recommend it, especially his brilliant sculptures made of light bulbs and household blinds. Then on to Birmingham, where I met an old friend to show off the baby and drink an unhealthy amount of coffee. She gave me a CD mix-tape for the baby (Kimya Dawson!) which kept us singing up the M6 and through the Old Testament rain. And at home we collapsed and watched Top Gun. I had another crack at the Hollinghurst but it’s a very heavy book and it’s much easier to flop out and criticise Tom Cruise than it is to balance a hefty hardback above a sleeping child. I hope there’ll be a little more reading and a little less travelling next week. I’m supposed to be on maternity leave, after all. 

Friday, 15 July 2011

Holly Moon

'What Draws Us To The Sea?'

Written & Spoken by John Siddique
Paintings by Dania Strong
Animation by Dr. Clarpupia Hernandez
Music by Katie Chatburn
Direction & Supervision by Walter Santucci

We we chatting about this film last night as we were prepping it for you and got into a whole long talk about things that pull people back. With us both, it is sea and hills (or mountains like Mourne in Ireland), and if you put the two together.. that just spells home to us...
What do you find yourself returning to? Pop us a note (or a poem or a bit of prose) and tell us about what compels you to return. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

From My Notebook - On Being A Poet Today

..have more depth than surface. Be an artist rather than appearing to be. So many 'artists' have the right laptop & phone, a shiny website/facebook page etc, they hang with the right people and talk the right kind of talk, but don't work on being rigorous and honest and developing their poetry... and god forbid they should spend years of their lives dedicated to reading poetry for its own sake, searching ideas out which feed the spirit and challenge the inner world. Is a life of surface and fakery going to satisfy you? Your friends will slap you on the back but you'll know the truth. Being the artitst/person you honestly are -  moving forward tiny step by tiny step in becoming.. What an adventure there is to be had if we will just put one foot in front of the other.. We're going to shake and wobble and get things wrong, and sometimes we'll get things right, Others will always appear to be doing better than us in moving ahead with the game.. but please ask yourself, is the world of appearances going get you where you live? It is quite a thing to be a poet, an artist.. for real I mean.. and that is good.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Nothing is Original

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."— Jim Jarmusch

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

On Nationality

‘I do not recognise any borders. Nationality is an imposition pushed on us to separate us. The country I grew up and became an adult in, is the world of literature and language, that is the only flag I am prepared to fly.’
John Siddique

Friday, 1 July 2011


'Family is so much more than blood'

Written & Narrated by John Siddique
Animation & Direction by Walter Santucci
Music by Cecilia Suhr & Walter Santucci

Based on a poem from the children's book
'Don't Wear It On Your Head' (Salt 2010)