Hey – So My Show’s Already Started

Hey. A very sleepy good morning to you, from my bed in Birmingham. I’ma work all day, but I’m not getting out of it, because the weather is horrible outside, and if you’re self employed, and you aren’t taking advantage of the ‘self employed, can work in my pyjamas if I want to’ swag at least once a month, can you really claim to be living? NO. No you can’t.

So the title of this bit of writing is nicked from HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE, which is a show by Miguel Gutierrez, who I am in love with now, and it starts with him sort of wandering out in normal clothes, but heavy make up and a back pack, and saying that, and I knew I was going to fall for the show the minute it happened – and I did.

But this ent no review, cus the last time I went down that track… well…



Now, I’m not actually on the website, but I am in the programme, and I promise I’m not lying, why would I? I’m legit.

(though imagine if I did that! If I just turned up at a festival and did a show, and went – hey, this show is a part of the festival – and it wasn’t? Cray. I bet someone’s done that. I now have options for the hard times).

It’s called £57.35, which is your JSA for the week if you are under 26 and single. And it’s a journey from the centre of town, to the high sheen glamour of Erdington High Street where I grew up, for a little conversation on a bench, opposite the job centre. I think it’s probably the most ‘simple’ thing I have ever made – which was the aim, a little bit (shouts to my mentor, Victoria Pratt, and her no nonsense advice), and I sort of made it with my dad, and do it each day with the help of my family. It’s crazy personal. Ostensibly, it’s about unemployment. But Unemployment is about a lot of things.

So this piece is a sort of direct descendant of the show I made at the Playhouse, which I never talk about on here, because I’m still coming to terms with it, a bit (Ira Brand, in that DIY book, puts that down as the final stage of her process, coming to terms with what she’s made, and I think pointing that out as a part of making is really important). It was a game, and it was big, and it involved more people than I’ve worked with before, and they were brilliant, but I was trying really hard to be too clever, or perhaps to be another artist altogether – and then the one room at the end, which I kept really simple, and didn’t try and be super clever in, was the one people liked. So I wanted to use that as a starting point. Drinking tea, sitting in the darkness, thinking of the city, not forgetting the PEOPLE, actual breathing in and out people that this big messed up system (that I, as one person, cannot FIX in one show, Selina you idiot) was screwing over –

– I don’t have a process, because I’ve been making work like this professionally for like 2 years, so am an art toddler, walking into doors, and vomiting Quavers down myself, but if I did, a big part of it would be crying, cus I do, a lot, every show I make, at least 10 times (generous estimate, it’s more), and I remember having a big cry about this one, and being scared that someone who used the job centre would come, see that work, and think “this girl never even saw me. She made this thing about all this stuff, but she didn’t SEE ME.” And that was the most important cry, I think –

and to combine that with the fact that the week this show went up, when me and Em were bug eyed with stress, and I was being a shitty daughter, my dad was made redundant, and it knocked me the fuck out. Quite like a blow to the back of the head. Sometimes, people say you need distance to make art, but I dunno how I feel about that. Academics say it a lot. I like academics, but I prefer the questions they ask, to the answers they pose – and I don’t like certainty in anyone. Well, that distance was gone.

And then a few months later, whilst in a blizzard of work that was also making me crazy, my Mum was made redundant – and that was drama. Trade Unions, and Doctor’s Notes and Out of Court Settlements, and a lot of letters.

So it was not an idea for me anymore, it was a thing. So in going to Fierce to continue working on it – a festival which is a part of my home, and a part of my teenage years, I knew I had to start with them, and start with where this work began, which is Erdington High Street.

So me and my dad worked together on it! My dad’s great, by the way – very very funny, and very very kind (two of the most important attributes. Maybe the most). And the first artist I ever saw up close. In many ways, I think deep down, he lay the first blueprints for me being an artist – and whenever I did art projects at school (a big canvas about fruit and flowers in the four seasons, pics of the pyramids by day and by night, Jackson Pollock inspired teacups and M.C. Escher inspired cushion covers) he was never far away with advice and materials and encouragement and pride. And we talked and talked a lot – and chose locations, and thought about ‘the shape of the work’ (“What does that mean Selina?” he said. “I don’t think that means anything, why don’t you just say ‘what’s going to happen’?”), and did lots and lots of interviews.

But then the job centre put more pressure on him, and our house needed loads of DIY, and he got a bit stressed about the idea of meeting people to talk about this stuff, because, as someone reminded me yesterday, life isn’t theatrics, its real and its painful. So I said he didn’t have to be in it if he didn’t want, and immediately he relaxed, and we have had a lovely week – where he has made me tea, and I have sound edited, and Emma Beverley (producer legend, and along with Victoria Pratt, sort of honorary family member, which just means my mum likes them both a lot, and asks how they are when she calls) has read his book, and been around with all her positive energy.

And the work has gone on, it’s just a little crestfallen.

So now, people meet me off the bus, and I sit on a bench, alone, and wait for them, and we gaze at the job centre, and start by asking what they wanted to be when they grew up.

I got some feedback about the first project, that said that that last room felt like being ‘lost, but still unbeaten’. And that, I think, is what it is all about.

I’m halfway through it, so this whole blog is me thinking out loud. They always are, so if you read them, cheers. xxx


So yeh, if you’re in Birmingham, any time between now and next Sunday, and you want to see it, email emma@selinathompson.co.uk, and we will book you in for a slot. I’ll feed you, cus I always do, and gently, gently, gently, you, and me, and my dad (whether he’s there or not) will take on those big systems. Sort of.


Have a good Monday loves. Maybe be all ‘middle finger to my old life’ and start your afternoon by drinking red wine in bed. Could be a top ten Monday.


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