Without doubt one of Edinburgh's strongest unique voices, Jean Findlay's plays absorb,as does rereading her account of her great-great-uncle, CK Scott Moncrieff "Chasing Lost Time".
Jean has found her voice, sharing his scorn for wars in her
harrowing, but ultimately uplifting account of her central character Jenny's illness, brought on by war:'The definition of piety; that which is beloved by the Gods, for the Gods, to the Gods; yet the Gods are constantly at war, constantly fighting. Wish they'd stop, don't you?'('I wish they'd drown themselves.')/'They are after all at home fighting, quarrelling, disputing territory. That's why Mount Olympus is in Cyprus. Gods have the same petty jealousies as us, only more glamour and fame, and that's what turns them into monsters. The problem of perception is to know which side of the camera you are on.'
A good writer is a friend, who tells you the truth on life, and both Jean and CK do this, they are Scotland's least-known intellectual lion/ess.
He not only was a lifelong friend of Vyvyan, Oscar Wilde's son, but also praised to the skies by Joseph Conrad: " I was much more interested and fascinated by your rendering than by Proust's creation", while Virginia Woolf copied his turns of phrase, in her major work, 'To the Lighthouse' and Joyce utilised some of his coinages in Ulysses. These are three of the best writers of the Twentieth Century, clearly consumed by his work. One might quote John Lennon on Yoko Ono, he is "one of the world's most famous, unknown artists".
At first sight Joseph Conrad's remark appears wonderful literary esprit de corps; but on closely examining the comparative French and English texts one grows aware how genuine, honest an appreciation and mark of respect it reveals. The work as translator especially of an 'intentionally dubious' work, is also interpreter, and a prize is named for Scott Moncrieff for French translation. His work is revolutionary, in the best Zeitgeist of Dada, as he sees himself as poet, not robot,imbibing fragments of consciousness coming fore, with qualities of cubists, or life's broken shards, differing angles adding dimensions.
A friend in the army remarked also of what was common knowledge of his bravery leading also:
"He would spy out German positions himself and would occasionally lead his men into battle, even though officers were supposed to remain behind (to shoot deserters). One of his men remembered him in these terms: “I can see him strolling about No Man’s Land as cool as if he were on the parade ground, seeking information and the position of the enemy … . On one occasion he brought back, as a souvenir, a German sandbag.” Over the course of the war, he won a Military Cross, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and other awards for service.
Jean has his panache for drawing others centre stage, his selfless integrity, and satirical wit.
For example, as talented with her unravelling of mental illness in a pregnant woman in the war, which draws on her family's pain at a lost member...
The exploration of these themes relates also for me to working with refugees, as well as migrants.
There was a story told by Jade Jackson, I heard, of the Ugandan genocide. I was amazed to hear of her bravery and positive outlook, it seems to be an ace in the pack of miserable stories, for it highlights how someone learns and grows.. She has seen her life in Uk as a blessing, and although still unaware of where her children are, so glowing a face filled with life, not with loss, filled with a faith in future and present it makes the mutterings of political elites in Parliament, or of disturbing racists so tiny-minded.
"I ran out of the house
Without packing anything
Not even my sanity " she wrote in a poem of her abuse, and emotional rape.
'No-one leaves her home unless she is running away from something, or someone has driven her away.'So Ugandan refugee Jade Jackson tells.
'There was a man in my village who had 'many eyes' as they say.
His ego earned him a spear in his backside'
She is by turns, wise, funny and witty, so to hear first hand recollections is a humbling.
With Jean and Isis Olivier, granddaughter of Sir Larry Olivier,we hope stories of transformation and wisdom will help bring fresh insights into life as a woman, fleeing mental walls or physical abuse.
Appreciative reviews of Jean's book: 'I found it impossible to put the book down.' 'To all of my fellow readers of the C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation of Proust's great work (which, many of his contemporaries claimed was a work of genius in and of itself):this lovely biography is for you.'
As a student I worked on a story about Grassmarket Project the theatre company that has often been noted as the inspiration for theatre ensembles of the marginal in Paris, and Berlin 'the Ratten007', who who won an 'Academy of Arts Award (they still tour internationally with People's Stage, Volksbuehne)
we encouraged collecting poetry from some of those participating,
as it seems a last resort for people without resources to express what they feel.
What also interests is the way that people who are seriously shaking up theatre from Grassmarket Project putting people from the street or young offenders on stage or Belarus making theatre about taboos is that they do not see themselves as political. 'That would be boring,' as Nikolai observes. 'Our theatre does not have a single political play in our repertoire' He prefers in fact to talk of 'uprightness', a much more adventurous, interesting topic which also reflects itself in the work of Isis Olivier who did our stage and fundraising; in spite of being eldest grandchild of Olivier she worked on an organic farm, spent time in Africa during the famines, and worked as a shepherdess before committing to her feminist painting. Or another Kate Smurthwaite who was part of our team at Chelsea who as well as being a feminist activist on Radio 4 adds comedy to her work. She has been subject to threatening tweets, even death threats which Rupert has been supporting her with legal advicem as he does for a vast array of endangered and vulnerable people. (It is only in later October that he is able to take time to visit London for a reading, having allegedly rallied locals against a vicious landlord trying to evict innocent elderly and others but this is something he could not comment on.)
If as people committed to work by those often marginalised we give a poetry award it is worth making it one that commits to helping those who are in distress either from a government or in deprived circumstances, trying to express themselves.
We attended the annual party of the Belarus Free Theatre which has made a record of being the first theatre company under a dictatorship to tour internationally and in their own country. It is worth also considering that they invited actors who would have to return to Minsk to be involved which
meant the freedom they experienced was limited.
Why do people talk of political theatre knowingly, when people who really need support have not interest in pure politics? Would it not be interesting to create a prize that demands
people should endeavour to do some service to community? Inspired by Natalia Koliade of Belarus Free Theatre being hacked we thought our Poetry Competition this year should look at how dictatorship conceals itself, whether with those on the edges of our society or of Eastern Europe: £500 first prize to be judged by Kate Smurthwaite, Isis Olivier, Rupert Ferguson as well as Editors Laura and Charlie Wiseman, with second prize of £300 and two more £100. The best poetry by people from young talent will be read at a venue to be announced, with a publication of the material to encourage them to further develop their work.
Inverse Narnia/Pacifists and Belarus
Is there a wooly dream of love beyond dictators?
Of wooly hats sewn full of dreams?
We normally expect to
Be able to find/A world where we can walk out of
Sleepwalk through a wardrobe Into a better reality
It means Carrying the Cupboard/around looking for a room to set
It in where one can then/Feel hushed and Dressing gowned/
Dream like Oblomov