Tell me about you, as an artist. How do you define art? What art do you make?
I’m a writer/performer.
I gab to audiences and make an authentic connection before I do anything. Then I offer up stories and moments populated by Dufflecoat Daves and Fray Bentos pies and broken people who cope by laughing. I undercut taboos, dress my stump up as a celebrities (I’m an amputee with a deformity that looks like a mouth on my stump). There’s bathos, irreverance, absurdity, comedy, a love of the truth of real people and silence.
I don’t know what art is, I’m not fussed about defining it. I just crack on with it.
You’ve recently been awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship – huge congratulations! What most excites you about this opportunity and what are you hoping to achieve?
Cheers. It’s brill innit.
I’m usually skint and I do a lot of work that is underpaid but rewarding, so I’m always running round the country workshopping and the like, but I have all sorts of stuff wrong with me medically so I end up crashing and being laid in bed with a cob on. This award means I can take a breather and put some money on the leccy and have some headspace to calm down and write what i want to.
I have no idea what will happen, I’ll just go with it. I predict a third poetry collection and a new play. And probably something weird that shouldn’t work but it does.
Your new play Cosmic Scallies will be at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and will then make its way to the Royal Exchange. What was your main inspiration for the play? What do you hope audiences take away from it?
The film I Daniel Blake. In order to convince people who aren’t from the council estate, benefits world I’m from that we deserve to be treated better, Loach had to make Daniel Blake a saint. This distinction between the ‘undeserving poor’ and the ‘deserving poor’ p*sses me off massively. Programmes like Benefits Street set out to chav shame and vilify us. I’m from the ‘Underserving Poor’, I’ve self medicated with booze and drugs, I understand why people looted JJB sports to get trainers to get the status they haven’t got, I *get* scratchcards and stealing and choosing to be flippant about your life because caring hurts too much because it’s unfair. All of that. I couldn’t talk about it for years because I didn’t debate like the people I was surrounded by, instead I swore and got angry and upset, so I made a play about it instead.
You’ve also got an upcoming solo show at Contact, Jumble Soul. Why did you choose to include audience interaction in your show? What advice would you give to an emerging artist making their first solo show?
The advice I’d give is don’t try to be theatre, just find your own authentic voice instead, do it your own way, don’t pretend. And if you’re working class and you’re intimidated by the theatre world, just give your head a wobble and f*ck that off because it gets in the way too much.
I’ve not got that much audience interaction. What I’ve done is gone round recording gabs with 35 disabled and working class/underclass people about everything and nothing and I’m using these voices as audio that will weave in and out of the show. And I’ve done that because I wasn’t hearing these voices on stage and I want working class people to feel like theatre is for us.
If you could offer a piece of advice to your younger self about being in the arts industry, what would it be?
Everyone’s winging it, crack on buggerlugs, you’re good enough.
Where can we find your work?
What does the future hold for you in your writing career?
Some, none or all of these: strange puppetry, lofi music collab, a play about radium, a play set in a psych ward, a TV sit com, serious poetry collection archiving the experience of people in Skem, weird pub quiz night, Wombles satire, more stand up comedy.
Sum up your experience thus far in one word.