(Then something devastating happens):
Jo Cox MP would have been 42 years old today.
Last week her life was cut short. Taken from her.
We were in the studio locked in a bubble working on Dreadnought’s new play The Orchard, exploring new directions. All the actors were there: Michelle Ridings, Ruth Mitchell and Saskia Portway. Musical Director; Claire Ingleheart, Director; Josie Sutcliffe, Producer; Charlie Parker, Dreadnought Champion; Sarah Pym. Myself. Writer.
Later on an audience of incredible women arrived to hear and respond to the work.
During the day Jo Cox MP was murdered in the street in her constituency.
This hadn’t registered with me at all as I wasn’t looking at my phone, any social media. Just focused on the job at hand working with the text in front of me. Moving forward. Taking the play to the next level of understanding. It had had another big push.
Late nights are the norm for writers during development phases. It is a feverish time and a feverish kind of state of being. Making me oblivious to the world outside the play.
I enjoy these development days. Feel that they are necessary to learn about the words and the world of the play. To establish a creative language across the team. I like to push as hard as possible, to learn as much as I can, to get the most out of the creative talent and energy around me.
But what happens when you think you are beginning to understand something, then the world bounds in, and you realise it is sometimes impossible to understand anything.
What happened in Batley in Spen. On its streets finally registered before the sharing began. It is unbelievable.
Silence between us all. We think of her family, friends and colleagues
I couldn’t quite take it in. Surely not.
We were about to present a play about women in politics. Political women. In the early Twentieth-Century.
A play about women and politics. Women in politics. Then the early Twenty-First Century comes crashing in.
I cried a lot since Jo Cox was murdered. I didn't know her. I never met her. But her words that have filtered through into our wider public consciousness have touched and moved me. Her humanity and humility and grace sings out.
It is clear that Jo Cox MP fought for the underdog. That she wasn't frightened to be a vocal feminist and a champion of women. She supported people who were terrified. In exile from their own countries, working towards making them welcome. Working towards a greater understanding of compassion in our society.
So I realise I am angry.
I am also sad. Holding these thoughts in my heart.
I know I am not alone.
Having spent much time now considering women’s political voices, their role in politics, how women fought to be heard, to have the right to vote now. These are common threads in all the work we do with Dreadnought, but none more so than in the plays Oxygen and now with The Orchard.
Today many folk are meeting in Parliament Square to hold hands and to be clear that the message is to ‘LoveLikeJo’ because love is stronger than hate. My neighbours two doors down have put this on a placard and placed it in their window for all to see.
What a shock. What a devastating blow. What a loss.
I ask myself the following question: where is the love between Fawcett and Pankhurst in The Orchard? Is it there? If so, where? I have to keep seeking it. There has to be love. To honour them and Jo Cox who was able to become an MP over 100 years later because of them.
It is all connected. I am trying desperately to connect here. I hope it make sense. I hope I am not making a complete hash of this? Talking out of term?
I’m here on my own today and so cannot hold hands or make that link with anyone. But I am in my heart. For it is love that has been attacked. Here on our streets and then also remembering last week was one helluva week, starting with the killings in Orlando of 49 LGBTQ people. Random acts of killing. Hatred in what was meant to be a safe space.
These things are a timely reminder, like big landscapes, that life is bigger than we are. It is certainly bigger than plays.
We need unity and common causes, and dignity and safety on our streets and in places for people to gather to laugh and dance and feel free. These spaces shouldn't have tyranny hanging over their heads.
I am so sad about these things.
All of these things are wired now into me. What can I say as a writer to navigate this?
What can writing do in dark times?
Bertolt Brecht had something to say about that.
I was hoping to find love within The Orchard. Determined even, and it has reached a place of love after anger after misunderstanding after understanding after common cause after division after rage after despair and walking and direct action collide.
What can we do after such events as these, but love. Because we do have more in common than what divides us.
I realise I haven’t written anything about the sharing.
Writer of ‘Oxygen’ & ‘The Orchard’ for Dreadnought South West
Wednesday 22nd June 2016