Ray Brooks

Wand moving forward:


In the last five years with Pret support we have delivered 3000 meals to street homeless, disabled,

dysfunctioning loners of all colours

Our theatre has taken us to Brighton, for a migrant family event, with Owltime called 'a privilege',

'should be on the school syllabus', and recently we even were part of volunteering with Chelsea sick children at C&W hospital

We have been approached by a call to nominate a Serbian for LPP (London Peace prize)

Only know recording

Anyone listened to Virginia Woolf on Words? It inspired me to a few of my own:

Words are hues in the air

Reaching out they dare

Like the ashes of animal sacrifice

To alter and incur new

Arrangements and belonging

In incarnadine oceans of longing

Jostle in a tribe, grow shy living with man,

With boy and whisper to eachother


Sometimes sit on the window ledge

Pulled on his boots and sits in

Nappies and coat. Looks longingly outside. Magnolias unfurling One by one Their wings curling giant butterflies Blink and they're gone


I have followed Ted Will to the garden gate when he raises

A hand, conducting his next games in which Mum or Laura excluded.

She is 'not allowed' to follow through the gate at Kew,

We are his Playground hovering over him, so he escapes


Jeremiah Wellbottom thinks his bottom holy

But really it is jelly and guacamole



By Kafkas Wife

The letter: It lay there.No, it’s not that simple.one could think about it for a while.The post arrives instantly, meanwhile flying over the need for a dark-haired beauty, in our mind of course, who with her yellow trolley fills up the whole of the pedestrian walkway, with her newspapers, catalogues, summons, warnings for overdue, penalty notices, family greeting cards and other unpleasant bills, towering over the street. If one wishes to go back even further, then one needs to enjoy looking at the wild suppositions, the knots of thoughts to the cafe where the piece of paper had to sit on the table between the coffee cup and the saltshaker, and to the fingertips which have to push the halting ink pen to meek, uncooperative letters.One must mention that I had a wish to reach the distant friend, my disappointment at the up to now missing answer to the other letters, which caused me to halt short of enthusiasm and exuberant openness and forced me to clam up.What is it about words on paper?Nothing is more uncompromising and divulging than a conversation without a spontaneous answer. A sort of monologue. As each dishonest written word is a stumbling block for the wished for flowing text. The reader of the letter can easily tell. Thumbs up, thumbs down, how redundant is: ‘I don’t know how to tell you what I think..’ In a conversation with a person in front of you, it would be easy to read it as as an unaccentuated, quick example of a person’s apology, looking for the right words. The empty phrases are easily forgiven as if by the attempt at conversation one might reach towards things one had not expected to say.A letter is different.How many of the incomplete thoughts end up in the dustbin, before one begins to think that one has attained expression of what one wished. No tone of voice, no pause, or gestures, or miming, but rather the running time, charting, repetition of word, sentence structure that is required of a conversational framework.Not to cross out small errors of choice of word in the general attempt to reach another.Now and then one reaches in writing a moment’s pause, as one considers if one has expressed a bit too close to bone, or ambiguous. The reader might not react, ultimately he might find it very binding, to read, it can make one feel panicked as driven into a corner, affronted, enforcing a decision which one might never have wished to make, or even in any case forced to react. Yes, yes, yes. How undependable, unforgiving is the written word. If the letter is actually read to the end, relieved, the name written with a flourish below the cheerful, farewell aphorism. Once finished the letter is then subject to reasonable consideration. With lipstick, biro, cough sweets it now shares its destiny. It is schlepped around, prudently past a couple of postboxes, and as the envelope is sealed, and one cannot change its contents anyway, at some point it is eventually in a high-spirited, generous mood dropped in. Yes.After a vigorous movement toward the receiver of the letter it commingles with the uniformly folded over hidden secrets, written revelations, forms, etc. becomes dogeared and attains a fine but grey patina. It reaches soon enough its goal. It has by now been several times superficially assessed, is thrown into an overflowing postbox, after it is opened it is filed away, and is put for a while on a perhaps dove-blue table.Mere speculation of course as to what will follow, perhaps it is a bit idle to think about the mood in which my reader picks it up. Perhaps he opens it hastily, or peels it back slowly, or skims across it, or reads every word, wonders, with a shake of his head, feels, understands or agrees. Whether surprised, or feeling near to me, who knows, I know I do not.The person waiting for a reply is in a fix.He awaits.He as a waiter can take it a bit lighter. Mind you in defence of my friend I should say: for the traveller it is difficult to regulate what is day, night or distance. It might best be described as a juggling, if one ball falls then another will soon be thrown in as a replacement.It is a difficult decision. Too much packaging is bad but also too much limitation.The dark-haired woman with the giant yellow trolley bag storms the last mailboxes and with a stoic calm shares out the important, unimportant and annoying lines. The hallway is full of the sounds of boxes clattering open as she stuffs the mouths of the boxes with monotonous rhythm, ending the wait or in some cases extending it.In my case the box remains empty, the errors of writing unreported, unanswered and so in my i magining alone I open the letter of a travelling friend.

The Email: He found me: I had first looked for him in google mail. That sounds like on Mars, or in the Matrix. He lives in London. I in Dresden.So now I sit in front of a bright monitor, in a bleak room, and the text seemingly jumps right out at me and has a presence as of a break-in. The spy on my laptop. Above middle to the lower right the message.It plops onto my computer display, instantly there, we are up-to-date, ready, nimble-fingered and amazingly intelligent. I hardly have the time to pause and wonder if I really am, it is taken for granted and then it leaves me wonder if everyone is cleverer or whether I am the one to fail to see that everyone is in a chorus and that is why no one notices I don't understand.Though maybe I am sitting in front of a giant monster that is controlling the world, so that we ants all run in the same direction. The IPhoneX. Everyone runs to the latest at the scent-brand, as though it were an extension of one's body, which once it has been mounted cannot be removed, only extended. A body part that is there solely to allow one to remove all, stand naked, in public, imaginatively, in public imaginatively, an octopus' arm of useless communicating. A tool for us in a fog of accountability.Wait though, before I give in to anxiety and self-doubt at what could be progress as a fast communication. Charlie wrote to me. And I start to resolve the text as it compresses in my brain. What does an email have that is so different? Why do these questions and answers appear overlapping. What is happening is a sort of impatience, a carelessness or is the mail actually advancing my ability to interpret at speed, so that by the end I have actually realised I forgot the start.It is as though the email would be a kind of outfoxing, associations, a card box even of smells as I remember the winter of 1991. See myself at Gatwick, without a penny in my pocket and the first person I ask the way speaks a strange dialect. But what is Charlie actually writing?Content!So to justify myself I must admit that I'm not sure at all, what is written because of my lacking English. At the same time I'm working on a translation of his pages of a long text, and am seriously wondering how we ever communicated 26 years ago?Maybe words are overvalued? Language at all? Do we all have to talk so much? Can we longer be silent? With each other and unconcerned about status and cognitive abilities.The letters in sentences, in paragraphs, in Times Roman, size 9, in an advised format, the log in, the google logo, that is displayed in the left top corner, there are hundreds of variations and thousands of synonyms, as though one were listening to music, as higher timbre they flood into one's head, not with sensual or haptic appreciation, but of a form of rationality, concerned only with knife-blade, sharp perception. I feel like I've had sugar, way too much sugar, the subtle hum of adverts, the addition of news, fakes, electronic triggers, my head is growing fatter and fatter, my brain collaborates with the sugar, without making any sense, digestive ability in flow.I'm off on a tangent.Yet that is exactly the point. The email cannot be held, I'm pulling it apart, but only answering in bits, yet there is the circle of confusion. Half-English, half-German, with a lot of subjects, relating to one mail, then replaced by another so we are stuffed with satellite-mail.No. No prose can develop, the whole thing is empty of meaning, the button for rubbish hovers on the screen.I try to lift myself out of chair, my brain clicking on assimilating stories that pop like soap bubbles.I play a long note on my flute, a d would be best and then a chord, on and on and on..and on.

Jean Findlay spoke and is still talking about Proustian memory and healing wounds...for Refugee Week

Jean is descended from CK Scott Moncrieff forced into exile,after being a fearless fighter in War, as homosexual (she was nominated for LAMBDA Award. This is particularly relevant with gay murderers still in Russia), with Bob Cooper, a passionate campaigner for rights and a Minister.


A letter Jean recently received which she talked of in Centre for Fiction, NY from a man relating working with war wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, at Walter Reed recovery centre, said he read of Chasing Lost Time and CKSM's wounds with great interest..perhaps "beauty and rendering commonplace things that illuminated their beauty may have been important to Scott Moncrieff" So we "knit ourselves back together through memories, a creative process Re Membering," as Jean gently puts it.


Poet Bob Cooper is also coming with his new collection Everyone Turns

We all have a female and a male component, with


Feel very humbled by meeting and working with Ugandan Jade Jackson, who although she suffered torture, writes gratefully of "Freedom from Torture", formerly Medical Foundation as "a Mother to Millions of all colours" with PEN's Lucy Popescu she is now published and her moving poetry relevant to all; she writes of her forgotten country

Last spring we were interviewed for Women's Week Radio, invited all to play a piano on the beach,to Edinburgh, bringing many thousands to play music. We wish to continue building works in the South: Morphe is London, Crawley Brighton.."You won't heal anyone unless you have respect for their dignity" Jean Findlay, Jenny says in 'Enemy Territory' to doctor. She met legend Tadeusz Kantor, who let her uniquely study a year with him in Krakow, and she publishes beautiful memoirs, of those of perception

She with friends Sally and Lala supported some war veterans I met, inspiring me in my direction to show real life, as perceived and unadulterated..

Great, inspiring change,forward-moving:bring a poem or thought of your own


Some with Open Faces



Open faces of Bettina and Ray:

Ray has written

a very humble

book about his

career as an actor,

starring for Ken

Loach and in

hit Hollywood film

'the Knack'



IN recent months as everyone knows, I have been writing a

book about inspiring people: from Ray Brooks to Bettina


Here is a portrait on the wall of her flat in Kensington,

where Sam Beckett used to visit her and accompany her

on piano as she sang. I accompanied her, with introductions

to her readings for her Little Garden at the Albert Hall,

supported by Peter Brook. Having just come back from the

Berliner Ensemble putting on 'Jungle of Dreams' I was interested in both their takes on

exile and theatre, which Edward Bond also joined us in: 'inner exile' he called it.

You can make out her flat in the background of the photo filled with art works of her friends and fans.


As is well known Brook left the Uk as he felt it too insular, and found a place he could be more experimental in Paris. Although the Young Vic has invited him to

put on a section of his Mahabharata, 'Battlefield' based on his

earliest work, which promises to be inspirational next summer.


This people have open, fervent faces that show how they are

here with us now, willing to give of themselves. Not the bored faces

of those propping up a bar with a beer, not of those who hide

in their faces trying to evade a gaze, nor of those who watch

television as a way of tuning out of the issues of our society, as Ray

describes in Learning My Lines : 'This is tv for clowning and red noses'


Much is transferred in a matter of seconds through these faces,

they wish to communicate, to share, to listen to me even, when I was a young person who knew no one.


That reminds me of East Berlin, where we were welcomed with open arms by the dissidents from the Former dictatorship, who put on spreads in the canteen. The obscurity of life on the streets was a worthy subject for a theatre that has a reputation going back 120 years of putting on People plays. The People's Stage was where Brecht began, under Erwin Piskator, and also subsidised theatre so that ordinary people could go and attend.


There is no doubt that Ray feels alienated and in exile in his own world though, every bit as much as Edward, Bettina, Peter and Irina, his daughter:

'As I've got older, I feel like an old man sitting on top of a mountain in the wind who doesn't know how to get down to the valley to find shelter and warmth...stand up as long as your legs work, walk down that mountain and shout.'


There is the resilience of a man who has principle which has meant he always had friends at the local Coach and Horses, even when Nel and Joe were sadly left by much loved Emma.

There was the mix up with being chased around Baker Street by the Rolling Stone manager,Oldham, even though he did not know Ray, a chance meeting with John Lennon, with Oasis lead singer, who wanted to meet Mr Benn. There was also 'On the Razzle' at the National Theatre with Tom Stoppard who lived around the corner from him, coming to knock daily on his door, with new improvements on script, even when the show was running.


He kept it all up and still had time to be friends with young kids like me and Paul, a schoolfriend I was invited to bring to watch him in 'On the Razzle'. He went out of his way after the performance to chat, also with my mum, who he was so kind to after her divorce, when she felt along way from Fiji where she had grown up.


'In exile‐who doesn't feel in exile with wars blaring out from the media and the street kids on our own doorsteps?' I ask Annie.


She replies by reading from T. S. Eliot


So here I am in the middle way, having had twenty years

Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres...

Trying to learn to use words, and every attemptIs a wholly new start,

and a different kinds of failure.. ... And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,

Undisciplined squads of emotion'


'All that imprecision is countered in some way,’ Annie says, reading Ray’s ‘Learning my Lines’, it reveals so much of the times he grew up in.’ She turns the pages. ‘Like working at at Butlins as a young performer when Billy Butlin lands in a helicopter outside the theatre and is treated like a god, by those


'Post war traumatised,' I add.


'Yes,' her eyes are vague like she is far away as she goes on: ' those rubble women whose lives have been changed a little for the better by the first chance they have had to get away, for a holiday that he has made possible.'


' the moment when he writes about the lights going out, and he and the cast all light candles so they can continue.’


‘Doesn’t that also show how important it was that life goes on, that it moves forward?'I add.


"Yes, they are no longer troubled by war.'


'Yes, they want to accelerate out of the inertia that is what Eliot describes in his Quartets.’


‘It intrigues me: he has written a historical document of the times, his mum on the buses, his paper round, and the time he spends all day by the Clock Tower at the Cinema, as his granddad works there, sitting watching films all day, where Boots now stands. It’s a useful book to a historian, it’s not the work of some sad actor celebrating his rise to stardom.’



She reads on:‘Sitting here in my dressing room, it all seems like a dream. But everybody, even those ghosts in the black and white photographs, lived in ‘the now’, like serious faced Billy. Then was now to them.’


‘Time present and time past,’ I interrupt referring back to TSEliot, ‘but without the sense of predetermined gloom Eliot must have felt, when publishing Four Quartets in 1944,’ I interrupt.


‘So say you,’ Annie counters and goes on reading from the book: ‘The fear, the fleeting happiness, all that pathetic hope that we know now came to nothing.’ ‘Yes, well, you’ve got me there.’


'The next line,’ she says, although he then goes on about an encounter with a huge bodyguard for Liam Gallagher telling him ‘Liam wants to meet you, you’re Mister Benn, aren’t you?’ ‘Of course,’ I say, knowing Ray would be unfazed.


Look on the back of the book‐he actually has a cartoon of himself standing with his arm around Mister Benn, sketched by the creator, David McKee. He has more stature than Oasis’s lead singer.’

Annie is giggling lying back on the grass at Hyde Park, enjoying the sunset, while Jennifer, Jeremy, accompanied by an orphan they are helping over her mother’s death, Andrea. They have gone skinnydipping in the Serpentine in the twilight.


‘Andrew Oldham followed Ray out of Baker Street offering him a record contract in 1962, before even hearing whether he could play guitar.’‘He has something about him: they all want to follow him, put on a magical costume and walk into one of Mister Benn’s adventures with him,’ I counter. ‘There was a time in the filming of his Hollywood debut, ‘the Knack and how to get it’ when John Lennon came in and sat next to him.’ ‘David Lester had just been shooting a Hard Day’s Night with them, so John wanted the company back‐and showbiz, and Ray delivers.


He used to sit in the bar of 'The Coach and Horses' when I was growing up, and he had invited a schoolfriend Paul and I to see him in ‘On the Razzle’ at the National Theatre. It was the latest play by Tom Stoppard, who lived round the corner and kept coming by with rewrites.’‘You must have loved that, Charlie. Like your Mum hanging out with my heartthrob, Jeremy Irons.


Why does Ray refer to: ‘All that pathetic hope that we now know came to nothing?’

‘Cos he’s a philosopher, Annie, like Terry Francis. Sadie and he had kids around the corner from my parents and Emma, his daughter, my chief playmate, watching Mister Benn between paddling pool and nursery.’ I paddle my feet in the Serpentine, lost in mystical poetic thoughts of how we might really be stuck in the present, and how it has not got much better: still those sleeping rough, that Jimmy and Kevin came to meet at Trafalgar Square, often Scots actually, thinking that Culloden being in the past, London might offer them a sweeter present.


In the water I can hear Jeremy singing, out further, trying to lighten the head of depressed novice, with her pain.‘You can change lives, by letting people feel they have a piece of the pie,’ Annie adds. ‘Isn’t that why we like celebrities? They have a piece extra and so cut it in half or quarters.’ ‘Nicely put, but Ray has a grandson Joe to think of now. So he better try believing in the future being some way positively linked to the present.’So what happened when you went to Beyond the Razzle?’ she asks.‘We were ecstatic, seeing Ray strut his stuff, and Mum was. In fact we all went into the Coach and Horse when ever we could to sniff out Ray, seeing if he was going to tell some more stories, like how he imagined as a kid there was a secret tunnel from Brighton Beach that led to Rodean through which he could reach the girls dormitory.’ ‘We have wikced phantasies,’ Annie laughs.