How it looked from the outside vs how is was for us inside. And still is. A very personal and public story.
How odd that a blogpost ending in the words ‘a very personal story’ became so very very public. The issue of pornography belongs to all of humankind, that is clear. My son’s story became the property of whoever wanted to claim it, and that has taken myriad forms and taught me an awful lot about my son, myself, my close family, the media and the world at large.
It’s not over – this isn’t a ‘well, that was a rollercoaster’ piece, this is a ‘well, this is a rollercoaster’ piece – and the only thing that has stopped me writing a follow-up or ‘what happened next’ piece earlier is that it’s still very much happening. It is far from over.
A few weeks ago, in lieu of this article (which I was going to write and share a few weeks ago but lost my way in it a bit), I wrote a fairly pretentious poem (even by my standards) called ‘Punching The Sky’. What unfolded on the page was a highly emotional response to my original emotional response to my son’s emotional admission (keep up). The thing is, I think my head should be editing my heart on this one by now, and when I speak to people face to face, or on the phone, or on air, or on the telly or carefully formulate emails explaining why I don’t feel the need to feature in Bella alongside The Man Who Married His Gerbil (thanks anyway) – I find my head and reason singing loud and clear. But cocooned in my office of an evening, the words I write, when no one is watching or listening, surprise me as they fall onto the page and I find the intensity of emotion I feel about this whole ongoing episode is now deeper, more reasoned and complex than it ever was – that the thinking and the chewing over and the justifying, the shaping and delivery of facts and argument, the careful handling of the vitriol and sympathy, the thoughtful responses to parents who have reached out and shared their own experiences, the need for answers and wisdom that I certainly do not possess (for this is far from that) has forced me to do what I know I can do professionally (meaning formulate something palatable to a paying audience) but when it comes down to it the core of this remains, soft and alive – radiating out whatever it was that has caught the attention of so many others. You’d think I was the only person alive who has spoken in such terms of such a common experience – BBC News at 6 and 10 were trying to camp outside the City Varieties a couple of weeks ago when Cameron was on announcing the Government opt-in system (the very one that I sat and told Helen Goodman, Shadow Minister for Media and Communications wouldn’t work… like the seasoned political advisor I had to instantly become…!), whenever there is a whisper of ‘porn’ on the news I get a barrage of calls and emails. I no longer answer BLOCKED calls – all to often they are from someone saying ‘we just want your voice to be heard/your story to be told/ we’ll come to you/it’ll take 5 minutes.’
They want me to be pro opt-in, pro-censorship, pro-kill the porn industry and all who sail in her. They want me to provide the box where they can pack in all the simplistic ‘this is why our young people are going off the rails and if we just ban porn…
(sorry how are you going to do that? and are you sure that’s what you really want to do? you liked it at the time)
…and ‘Mum’s like you, who’s kids have been affected, say that is what MUST happen then we can all just agree we’ve done something about it and move on. Ok?’
Not really, no.
But what then?
Well Dick Bonham (from Leeds-based Little Mighty, and now my Producers on the project), and I put in a bid to ACE – and got the money. Which is fantastic – my first ever ACE funding. And The Lowry, The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Live Theatre and Theatre in The Mill came on board as partner venues. Then actors, Danny McCann and Robert Ward agreed to – well – act, and animation studio Arcus Animation, agreed to – well – animate and Musician/Composer Rich Huxley agreed to – well – you know, and Scott Thompson agreed to design and make something beautiful…. So a play will happen.
What will this play be? It’s a terrifying place to be stood, on the brink of myriad possibilities from such an emotive and public subject bourne out of a true story. I feel the weight of expectation alongside the personal pressure, I have these amazing performers and collaborators waiting to begin tomorrow. I’ve started and re-started writing the script and have a fraction of a piece to begin with tomorrow. I have a meeting with BBC 3 after rehearsals tomorrow wanting to talk about including me in their documentary about “Porn… What’s The Harm?”…. Um. I never said there was harm in porn per se, I just said…
Oh never mind.
I do actually want to hide right at this moment, or just go for a long walk on the beach with my sons and pretend none of this ever happened. I could give the money back to ACE and tell the creative team to have a lie in and thank the amazing partner venues. I could. I could do that if I wanted to. But I’m not going to, am I? Because it’s probably the most important thing I’ve ever written. Which is why I don’t want to.
So whatever comes out of this process will come out. I’ve copied the pretentious poem below, here. Because it probably explains why I’ll be turning up at the Lowry tomorrow and by the end of the day drinking wine and thinking…. ok, it’s not all down to me. I warn you – it’s pretty pretentious.
Punching The Sky.
He was shattered
He told me why
My world shattered
So I told the world why
(With his 11 year old blessing)
The world answered
With as many voices
As there were pieces
Lying at our feet,
Eye to eye voices,
Warm and sweet with instant response,
Enquiring, modulating tone, treading water (badly),
Brave and vile with perceived anonymity,
TV screen and radio airwave voices,
Persistent, persuasive, self-serving,
Thrusting, all pretence gone.
Public voices came thick and fast
Some turned away
Some took a step closer
Some ran headlong into my
Or someone else arms
Some sat and closed their eyes
Some asked for absolutes
Some for guidance
Some jumped on the bandwagon
Wrote their own account
Of rose tinted ragamuffinery
Some looked up for the first time
All this happened in 24 hours after my son came and spoke to me
The world turned as I stood still
Punching the sky.