I’ve been commissioned to write a new monologue as part of Z-Arts’ Family Matters project. If you don’t know, Z-Arts, formerly the Zion Arts Centre is Manchester’s only venue dedicated to inspiring and providing creative opportunities for children and families across Manchester and the Northwest. Here’s the blurb about the project from Z-Arts website:
A series of 5 monologues from spoken word artists on the theme of family. Each piece is a real life portrayal of one person’s family, what it means to them, what family life is like growing up, the challenges, the love and ultimately how it has shaped them as an individual.
Including a gay Muslim who grew up in a loving Bengali family in a small Essex town, now living as a practising Muslim with a non-Muslim partner who want to start their own family, or a Somali woman who is cohabiting with her partner and now has her own young family, but has estranged from her parental family for seven years, as a consequence. Or a simple story of a teenager and the dependent /independent struggle of family ties and releases that represents.
This project doesn’t just focus on families, it puts families into focus.
Each monologue would be a piece of beautifully crafted writing, drawing on emotions and creating a window on the multiplicities of human existence in the modern world.
Followed by Q&A on the state of the ‘family’ in 21st century Britain, and what it means to be part of a family in this day and age.
There has been a seismic shift in the demographics of ‘family’ in recent times, which the arts are not currently keeping up with. As well as the traditional 2.2+2 ‘nuclear family’ there is now a much wider and broader family unity which can include any number of variations of groupings. The Guardian and other media publications have picked up on this, the Guardian for instance arguing that there are now 32 different kinds of family. Examples might include LGBT families, children cared for by grandparents, estranged families with parents and children separated by hundreds if not thousands of miles, alternative families who create their own family unit where their traditional unit is missing – the variety is endless.
My monologue is about growing up with divorced parents and about the fact that divorce isn’t necessarily a wholly negative experience for children. It’s about the second surrogate family I inherited for a brief time and about how love and self-sacrifice can surmount seemingly impossible situations.
I’m really nervous about this project, partly because of the illustrious company in which I find myself with the other writer/performers – Yusra Warsama, Tuheen Huda, Louise Wallwein and Melanie Ash – but mostly because I’ve hardly ever written and performed anything this personal before, I’m not quite sure how to do it. I’m always a bit in awe of people who do.
My fears are that I will take myself too seriously and write something earnest and po-faced, or that my life will turn out to have just been a bit dull. When you create fictional narratives you can make the details as fantastical as you like – when writing from personal experience you feel a sense of responsibility to those others, alive and dead, who are part of your story.
But I want to start writing about this stuff, because I know that some of the stories from my life are worth telling - I have a whole show I want to make about my dad that has been forming in my mind since he died five years ago, and I hope that as long as I tell my stories well enough they might help people to better enjoy and endure their own.
Also I’ve signed the contract for the commission now so I have to finish it, or give the money back, which I can’t afford. Not if I want that Tin Tin bedspread I’ve been promising myself.
So I’ll be doing it soon, under the directorial guidance of Sue Roberts and with musical accompaniment from Jaydev Mistry and I hope you might be able to come and see the result. We’re performing one a day in a series of free lunchtime events at the Royal Exchange from 20th – 24th October and then all of them in one night at Z-Arts on the 1st Nov.