‘Everything has its origins in the place we are born’
– Dario Fo
I was asked again recently, at an informal talk, how I had got involved in what I ‘do’ – meaning really walking, writing, making films and videos. I think the first time I was asked this question in a public setting was by Gareth Evans at a screening of The London Perambulator in Greenwich (my film about Nick Papadimitriou), and I think prompted by the appearance of the comedian Russell Brand in that film alongside Iain Sinclair and Will Self, which many people find incongruous but is perfectly logical to me. But to answer Gareth’s question I spoke about the great Italian satirist and playwright Dario Fo and how he was an important inspiration for me early in my creative journey. This took Gareth by surprise and to be honest I hadn’t thought much about how to properly articulate it.
So when I was asked the question again in a more relaxed setting, I once more started with Dario Fo which again prompted raised eyebrows. Now, I should be preparing for tonight’s talk with Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap but I really feel the need to share this and clear my mind a litte – even if I don’t get much further, and whenever I attempt this explanation – man it really goes on. But simply: my interest in politics (my undergraduate degree) and comedy (Young Ones, Blackadder, Ripping Yarns etc.) led me to Fo. Added to that my childhood love of history and mythology and it was all there in the work of Dario Fo. The final ingredient that tied it up with walking was reading how Fo drew heavily on the culture and topography of his region of Italy.
I grew up walking, everywhere, but what stayed with me particularly was walking with my Dad in the hills around Wooburn Green in Bucks, where I grew up. The old man is still a great story-teller and I loved listening to his tales of the characters he knew around the villages, scrapes with game-keepers, ferreting when he was a boy – all that stuff. The landscape for me was a place rich with narrative. Later, inspired by Fo, I went looking for older stories from that same landscape and found tales of heretics and martyrs, Mummers, and minstrels and I wanted to mix it all together somehow with things from my own time. Some of that resulted in the Remapping High Wycombe project. And there’s a fairly straight line from there to here.
The other element to all of this is how digital media played a role in providing a platform to articulate some this. I’d started out in small fringe theatres and moved online, starting blogging, initially as an extension of the work I’d been doing in live venues but then realising that I really preferred to document the world around me than to try and be sardonic or satirical or polemical. Of course sometimes, when asked, I progress to talk about how I ended up working with Russell Brand and why he’s in London Perambulator (he introduced me to Nick in 2005 realising we had a lot in common – they met through drug recovery programmes – this is in the film).
Of course when you say this out loud it can be a bit confusing, it’s probably a bit confusing written down.
Ok, I’m glad I shared that with you. I nearly lost the lot when the wifi went down just now so it must be fated that I actually post this. Now to prep for tonight’s talk with Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap.