A well motivated individual can achieve anything they seriously set out to.
I'm duel Heritage. West Bridgford and West Ham. Born in West Ham, London of a Cockney Dad. (Had TB died after a long illness in 1963). His family had worked on Covent Garden Market and were mostly grocers throughout the 19C. Though at least one is thought to have served at the Battle of Waterloo. Brought up in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. I'm told I'm descended from a 17C Sheriff of Nottingham on my mothers side. In between the two I spent several years in Canada, Care and Orphanages. Left is a picture of me at home in Canada with my adoptive First Nation family. (I'm the short blonde one) and right is a picture of me and my mum at Niagara Falls.
a picture of me shortly after arrival in England outside my first NCH
Sheringham with my new carer. It was here as a 4
year old child that, rumbling something was afoot, I broke free
from staff, ran out onto the
balcony and shouted, Mum! Only to see her walk silently down the drive,
through the gates
disappear. Below right is a recent picture of me outside that former
Orphanage. Here I had my first snowball
fight. Sang 'there's a hole in my
bucket dear Liza' in the Christmas Show and saw the funniest thing
ever. Someone actually
walk into a lamppost.
Top Left This is me in between Orphanages in a shop (probably Beatties) holding a Monkey. I tried to hold the Monkey like I was told to, facing camera, but he hated it. I understood why as I looked at him, as he looked at me. We were kinda the same, we even had the same expression on our faces.
Beech (right) was my stepfather from 1964. A Diver in the Royal
His Father Fred Beech (left) had served in the Long Range Desert Patrol
Group and was Lt.Col. J. 'Donny' Player's Driver during WW2.
With him when he was killed. When Bernard left
the Navy he worked at the Nottingham bicycle factory Raleigh. In almost
exactly the same fashion as Albert Finney in the Nottingham set film
'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.' Incidentally, I saw Albert Finney
in the play Orphans on Shaftsbury Avenue in the 1980's and when I later
bumped into him at the BBC I felt moved to tell him how brilliant I
thought he had been in it. He listened, put his hand firmly on my
shoulder, pulled me to him and said...... Well that's another story.
I was 6 years old and in my second NCH Orphanage, Princess Alice. My best friend was Renee a black boy of West Indian parentage. We had several ‘Children of the boys off the Windrush’. Their visitors had deep and rich Caribbean accents. Everything revolved around ‘Duties’ in NCH. Chores. Making your bed, carpet bashing, setting the table, fetching the post etc. Even sitting on the loo for a prescribed amount of time. “To make you regular.” I was doing my duty and clearing the breakfast table and Renee was doing his in the kitchen. Drying the dishes. Some dispute arose which I didn't properly overhear but which resulted in Renee swearing. The punishment for swearing was a bar of soap in the mouth to “wash your mouth out” and this punishment was quickly and efficiently administered to him. Renee then did something that we all knew should never be done. Not in front of anybody else at least. He cried. This you see made you an instant victim with the other kids and attracted an array of exotic punishments from our grown ups. I play fought with Renee and shared a bath with him. So I knew he was a strong and muscular boy. Regardless, he was flown up the stairs with ease by the grown ups. The flight was accompanied by grown up laughter and cries of ‘crying eh”. “Like a big girl”. “Well”. I waited just out of sight in the doorway at the bottom of the stairs and after what seemed an age a rag of humanity spilled down the stairs coming to a stop at the bottom. Sprawled out and looking like a Ragdoll. It was Renee. He stood up straight. I looked at him slowly from the bottom up. He was wearing brown leather buckled sandals and white socks. A plaid pleated skirt and short sleeved white blouse. It shone out against his dark black skin. He had been dressed as a girl. For crying. He looked at me firmly and stoically. Then said “not a word”. I held his hand and we set off to school together in silence.
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2010
Steve wasn't a school friend he just lived nearby. Above a launderette on Melton Road in West Bridgford. I would call on him there Saturday mornings mostly. We talked about guns and bombs and enjoyed some competitive target practice with our Air Arms. I would knock on his door half way along the launderette's side passage. Then wait for the sound of clunking shoes on the inside bare stair steps. I passed the time looking down to the scrap strewn backyard dominated by a large rusty underground petro storage tank that was apparently "worth a fortune." On this occasion Steve's mum appeared and told me to wait. That Steve would be down. She didn't say shortly or soon and I knew from experience that Steve might be some time. Steve wasn't allowed friends upstairs as some years before a clock had been stolen by one. I don't know if this was true or just an excuse to make Friends wait outside. I always imagined his living accommodation to be as cramped and filled with junk as his back yard was. I dropped my bag and followed the wall around to the rear of the building where I knew I could sit and wait. There I was pleased to see footballer Bobby Moore sat on the open back door step of the Launderette. The escaping warm air enveloped us as I sat in the doorway next to him. I knew Bobby Moore though I had almost no interest in football. Other than playing it. It was only a handful of years since he had famously led England to World Cup victory. I had also spoken to him before at least once on this very step. I had told Steve about it at the time and he had quite nonchalantly replied that Bobby Moore part owned the launderette and was often there. I took Steve at his word but considered he may not have believed me and have just made this up. But it didn't seem that implausible and I presumed there to be some connection between Bobby Moore and West Bridgford as several years before this the then new England Team Captain had given out the Sports Day prizes at my nearby Infant School. Barely a stones throw from this launderette. I remembered my elation at him presenting me with a camera and my deep disappointment when I discovered it to be just a trick rubber one that squirted water. Steve as it turned out I never did get to know very well. He was a bit geeky, a Radio Ham. He went to an all boys School at least two bus rides away. I considered there might be some oddity around him somehow as another friend of mine, who I didn't even know knew Steve had apparently painted a small yellow Swastika on his door. Steve wouldn't talk about it and I don't recall if it was there on this day. It had been there for ages though. Quite bazaar it seemed to me at the time. Wasn't the Swastika a German War thing? Steve I should mention now I never met as an adult to confirm or deny this either. Though I thought I saw him on a Sherwood bus going into Nottingham once with a gay companion. Twice I thought I saw him in Nottingham City centre. Dressed as a woman. Being a transvestite you might say. On both occasions that I thought I had seen him in Nottingham he had been wearing a long black dress. He wore a little make up too. Sparingly and quite tastefully applied. Being now over 6 foot tall he was striking and looked strangely elegant. In the space that was my hesitance in saying "Steve?" He had walked by and past me. On the other occasion he was pushing an old matt black ladies bicycle. He stared at me from across the road in a way that seemed to say 'I see you Marcus but I don't want to talk". He looked a bit like one of the witches from the Wizard of Oz. Maybe he was in fancy dress and maybe it wasn't him? Back on the step Bobby Moore was focused on picking the lint off his maroon sharply pressed and creased trousers. He wore polished pointy burgundy shoes and a bright yellow shirt. I can't remember what he had worn the previous times I had met him or what we talked about but he was friendly in his manner and smiled a lot. Easy to talk to you might say. I remember him telling me, " it's a long game." Something I now understand to be a footballing phrase. Though I don't recall us ever talking about Football. I also now know that maroon is a West Ham colour. Oddly enough I was born in West Ham and my father came from Upton Park. Happy coincidences and happy memories. I loved being a kid. I love stories.
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2010
(West Bridgford Comprehensive)
I remember my last day at School well, I was 16 and it was Sports Day. There's only so much 'cheering on' and sneaking off for a fag that you can stand and by early afternoon I had decided to saunter off home.
Halfway down the School drive I was surprised to be confronted by the Rev. who addressed me by name.
Surprised because I didn't think he knew my name.
I had only ever attended one of his RE (Religious Education) lessons two years before.
He had pointlessly made me draw coloured crayon pictures of 'what ancient scrolls might look like' and so I had spent most of the class contriving an excuse to have my name removed from the register before the ink had properly and definitely dried upon it.
'I'm in the wrong class Sir!' had the ring of truth about it and seemed to do the trick. The following year I simply didn't register for RE in the first place and enjoyed an extra 'free period' in the Cloak Room as you couldn't properly be absent from classes you weren't registered for.
'Where are you going boy?' snapped the Rev's beady eyes sharply back into focus and my attention away from the Tarmac of the School Drive.
Sh...t! So near to the School gates too.
'Home Sir' I meekly replied.
'Home' The Rev pointed skywards, 'But It's not 3 O'clock yet! Come and see me when you come back next term,' he balked.
'Not coming back....' I mumbled into the breeze.
'Then.... I'll see you in Prison!' he said staring me down.
As I passed through the School gates I wondered about what the Rev had so meaningfully said to me.
Strange man I thought and then; 'Why would I want to visit you in Prison Rev?' would have been the really witty reply!
Ahhh The benefit of hindsight.
God Bless us all.
copyright Marcus Clarke 2007
|Policing and Corpsing.
As a teenager in West Bridgford I shared digs with a bunch of Bikers. Some argument had gone on between them resulting in one of the Motorbikes parked outside being vandalised. A Police complaint was generated. Something I thought was more middle class West Bridgford than 'Biker Code'. The first I knew of any of it was when we were all carted off to West Bridgford Police Station. While the others were individually placed in different interrogation rooms to, "spill the beans and blame one another" according to a passing Police Officer. I was sat down at a desk. Guarded by a Police Dog and invited by its officer handler to 'get my side of the story in first.' Telling me that, 'every chain was only as strong as the weakest link.' I really had no idea what any of this was about and certainly had no 'beans to spill'. So I quietly minded my own business and admired the large German Shepherd Police Dog sat next to me. I love big dogs. It was huge. Yet calm and tame. Thinking I might be able to stroke it my 'stupid logic' led me to ask the poorly phrased question. "Does it bite criminal people in the Police Station?" The handler replied "No. They usually fall down the stairs." This might be a Police joke? I kept my hands to myself. A Constable gave me a cup of water. I wondered if this was the famous good Cop, bad Cop routine? Ages later I was stood in a line of leather jackets in a top floor Police Station Office. Like schoolboys we nervously shuffled and coughed as we were 'told off'. Warned or whatever it was by a 'high ranking' Police Officer in white short sleeved shirt. He went on a bit. Bored I began looking around the room. For some reason my eyes settled on the two star and crowns on the high ranking Policeman's lapels. Interested I strained to pick out the detail. They reminded me of Lord Nelson's Templar style breast jewels and of my trip around his flagship. The Victory. My eyes drifted down from these to the middle of the desk where I saw his car keys. Attached to the keyring was a long piece of perspex. It was inlaid with the same two Police Crown thingamajig's that were on his lapel. I gagged. I can't explain why. But I found this absolutely hilarious. What followed was the worse corpsing I have ever had. Even the hairy bikers joined in. Though they didn't know what I was laughing at. It was infectious. The Policeman carried on in his quiet serious tones adding only a long wizened stare at us. The others were able to stifle their laughter but I just couldn't stop. It obviously wound the Policeman up because he suddenly stopped and began shouting at me, "stop it". "Shut up!" Becoming more and more agitated until he stood and shouted loudly in my face, "stop it or I'll throw you through that ......... window". That didn't help at all. I imagined my battered corpse landing with a thud and splat on the outside pavement. Shocking Old Lady Central Avenue Shoppers into clutching their chests and fainting. Scattering their dark brown wicker wheelie baskets with tartan covers off and out into the road. Cars swerving and mounting the pavement. Like a scene from some civil rights film. A Constable saw sense and just bundled me out of the station saying, "idiot".
"Thanks" I whispered.
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2011
From Victoria Rd. We could range quite widely. We could go over the Beckett School playing fields. Cut through the Allotments and reach the playing fields by the bottom of Wilford Lane. The Shooting Range. Mess about in the nearby bog. A flood plain wetland. Go down by the River Trent or go the other way around the back of the large new ASDA. Behind the ASDA began The Tip. A large Council landfill site that was always interesting to walk over. Sometimes we used it to get to the old brick yard by the bypass. It was a bit dangerous to cross. No fence. Smelly and very hot. Yes hot. I've never really understood why people imagine landfills to have rubbish in them that either remains there forever or slowly rots away. In my experience. They are simply improvised underground, incinerators. Certainly this site was. Walking over the cracked crusty earth surface was like walking over Volcanic Lava.
Through the heat cracks you could see the raging furnace below. "Spontaneous combustion" the Council tip man said. It blasted hot air straight in your face as you looked down into it. Occasionally it spat stuff out too. The fumes took your breath away. You had to keep moving or your rubber soles would melt. Never tried it in wellies but I think that would have been a disaster.
On this day though we were just setting out from Victoria Road to find our other friends. We found nobody at the Becket school Playing Field so we began to cut through the Allotments. The Allotments had straight and tidy well kept paths lined with hedges and the occasional fence. Sometimes you would see an Allotment gate open and someone in there digging. Mostly the Allotment keepers were polite. Thinking you were the kids of another keeper probably. You got just the occasional “clear off you toerags”, or “this is private property”. As we rounded the main path corner we saw a man chopping logs on a tree stump. He had a massive axe. I remember it’s bright half red and silver head. Its sharp blade and new wooden handle. “Crack” it went as it landed splitting a log and burying itself into the tree stump. It remained there standing up. The man was middle ageish and thin with black hair. Bit gaunt. He looked at us and said “small hands”. There’s a bird trapped between the floorboards of my shed. Think you can get him out”? We followed him through the open Allotment garden gate and up the path towards an old dark grey Shed at the top. On three sides were thick Hedges and on the other, on the right, a chain link fence grown over at the bottom with weeds. It made up the border between the Allotment and the main path. As we entered the Shed the light slowly faded down. We heard the Shed door creak and then close behind us. Then the click of a latch and the rub of a bolt. The man turned and said. “We’re going to play a little game. Sit on the floor” As we did I looked at Jay and he me. The man started to sort through a wooden tray box of stuff. Light came through a small window and I looked around the Shed. There was a long Table that I was now sitting under. Jay was curled up in the opposite corner. The man stood by the door. I could see all manner of sharp implements and tools on the walls. Large rusty course saw blades stood out. Silently the man began to tie Jay up. First he tied his hands and then his feet. Then he tied me. He used old ripped rags. As he tied my wrists I remembered an old Cowboy Film I had seen where the hero, in a similar predicament, had crossed his wrists over and on top of one another. Stacking them to cause the bind to be overly long. I did the same thing. The man tied my wrists and feet and smirked saying “quite loose that. Not at all tight. Alright”. Then he gagged us both with these horrible rags. And the gags were tight and smelly. Made you gag. As he turned to tackle Jay's clothing he stopped and looked back at me staring at him. He threw a coat over my head. I quickly managed to dislodge it. He looked at me again. Then went out of the Shed. As he did I turned my wrists over and wriggled my hands out of the bounds as quickly as I could. I pulled the gag off and untied my feet. Rushed to do the same with Jay before staggering, squinting out of the Shed door. I quickly scaled the chain link fence. I was well practiced at scaling chain link. Only way to get in to locked up Tennis Courts. Like a Marine up a scramble net I was. Sitting on the top avoiding the single line of barbed wire I could survey the whole scene. Jay suddenly stumbled out of the Shed door and scrambled up to me. He was shorter than I was. As I leaned down with my hand to reach his and pull him up I saw over the opposite hedge. A red and silver axe head bobbing along the top of it. Like a Shark fin on the ocean. The man was coming back. With an axe. ‘Nutter.’ I looked back at the Shed. Jay had left the Shed door open. ‘oh no’. When the man reaches the allotment gate he’ll see up to the Shed with its door open. Realise we’ve got out and nip around here and block our escape. Catch us! I took my hand away. With only half of my breathe but with my voices full fearful intensity I said, “go back. Shut the door”. Jay froze and looked at me panicked and perplexed. “Go back, shut the door”. I said again. He hesitated. I kept my hand high. Then he quickly dashed back and pushed the door to a close, turned and jumped up at me. I pulled him up and as he vaulted over the top his weight pulled me over the fence and we both fell and hit the ground on the other side. Just as the man rounded the corner and passed through the Allotment gate. Silently we lay on the hard path looking at him through the weeds and chain link. The man had the axe held high over his shoulder. Focused on the Shed door he trudged silently and solemnly towards it. Only he knew what he had in mind for us. We slowly backed up and sneaked away until we could break into a run and then we ran and we ran and we ran. Soon we ran out of breath and had to stop. Panting I lent on a front wall. I recognised the house I was looking at. It belonged to an Old Soldier. I had talked to him once of the 'Great War'. We needed help. I bashed on his door ignoring the bell and when he answered we poured out and over one another to tell our story, “We’ve been tied up”, “gagged”. “Look”. We showed our ties and the gags around our necks. “Yeah and he’s got an axe.” The Old Soldier stepped in his door and picked up the Phone then paused and put it down again. He gathered his Car keys and said “I’ll run you down to the Police Station”. He did too. What happened next is a matter of Police record. They told my Parents that we “had a very narrow escape”. I didn’t think about it though for years. We never became victims you see. It was just another kids scrape we got in and out of. I know Allotments are trendy but you couldn’t give me one. I’d be worrying what I might dig up?
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2011
Film. The Warhorse.
Took my eldest Son Billy to see the Film Warhorse. My Grandfather and his Great Grandfather was in the Cavalry at the outbreak of the Great War. I remember him showing me his medals from the Battle of the Somme too. He moved in an awkward way dictated by the shrapnel still inside him. He died in agony in the '70's from the cancers induced by the small amount of Mustard Gas that he had ingested. His own sides. ...
He was a brutally pragmatic man who's insensitivity caused a lot of problems in our family. My mother to run away from home at only 15 years of age and it was his idea to put me in an Orphanage, "less the child be spoilt." Some said he was more made that way than born. This film helped me see how that could be.
In my adolescence I had a school friend who was very well off. Well his parents were. They owned amusement arcades and night clubs in Nottingham. Had a Colour TV too. They were really nice people who were good to me and even took me on Holiday to Yarmouth with them. My Dad (Stepfather Bernard) had little time for them though. Said the father was a ‘black marketeer’ during the War. Bernard’s own Dad had been John 'Donny' Players Driver during the War, was with him when he was killed and like his brother Fred, Bernard had done long proud service in the Royal Navy. My Mother, who now lives in the Meadows’ Dad, Harry, had been at the Battle of the Somme, got gassed a bit too and her Brothers had all done service at El Alemein, Casino, D Day Malaya etc. So she sort of agreed. It troubled me this disparity between what I thought of my friends parents and what my parents thought of them. So one day in my friends Car I asked his father straight out if he’d really been in the Black Market during the War? This is how I remember his response. He said, “Marcus. I was at Dunkirk at 18 and got shot in the leg. As they passed me back down the line on a stretcher I saw a bunch of young lads in a trench being handed out anti-tank rifles. I always remember the look on their faces. Their faces." Why? I asked. "Because the rifles were useless and they knew it. And what was going to happen to them when the German Tanks arrived.” He continued. “I thought there and then. If they can do that to these young lads then up theirs. That’s it. I’ve had it with them!” So that was the answer I got. One that, thankfully, I didn’t understand for a very, very long time.
Doug Died today.
My Uncle Doug died today. So he won't be going back to his little flat in the Meadows. He ran through El Alemein's smoke with his rifle and bayonet. Was gunned down and got up again. Landed at Anzio and climbed up Casino. Walked silently through a Concentration Camp. Met a brother in Germany who'd fought his way there from Normandy. I'll remember the funny faces painted on eggs. The laughter.
It was a cold late October evening and I had fallen asleep on the sofa. I was woken by a knocking on the front door. It unsettled me as we have a door bell. I opened the door and looked down onto the top of a black three cornered Hat. It was hovering at my waist. Suddenly it rose up and into my face revealing the tall thin man beneath it. I stepped back to take in his full figure. All in black he looked like a Highwayman. Still, stoic and imposing he stood there a moment in silence. Then he slowly lowered the thin grey silk scarf from his mouth. Is it Halloween I thought? He had long thin eyes and a pale, gaunt face. He fixed my gaze and in a deep heavily accented voice he said, "good evening, this is the Reliquario di Pinocchio. It contains a fragment of the true nose of Pinocchio. It is a bequest from the Count Innino Naso to you. Because of your faith." He thrust it into my arms and its black velvet cover immediately fell away. I stared in amazement at it. When I looked up the man was gone.
A few years ago I decided I had Cancer. I had no symptoms which was annoying. There was only one kind of Cancer in my Family that I knew of. My Grandfather had died of Lung Cancer in the ‘70’s. He had been gassed in WW1 though which was the probable cause. I had an Uncle who had also been diagnosed with Lung Cancer shortly after WW2. He had had a chunk of his lung cut out and went on to live another 50 years. Both had smoked as I had as a younger man and so when I had a cough that lasted more than 3 weeks, I decided that was it, I had lung Cancer. I promptly made an appointment with my Doctor. Typically the morning of the appointment my cough had gone. I kept the appointment anyway and there followed a bazaar conversation with my Doctor. Me “I’ve got Cancer”. Her “what are your symptoms”. Me, “haven’t got any really but, I get an itch on my head when the Sun shines. Probably Skin Cancer that”. “That’s an old scar” she said and "because your hairs thinning the Sun is irritating it". (Scar tissue is irritated by the Sun apparently). “OK” I said. “I have an itch right here in the middle of my chest where my shirt is open on sunny holidays. Bet that’s Skin Cancer”. "That’s a spot she replied". "I’ve had a twisted ankle for 3 months" I added not realising how stupid that sounded. She looked and paused. Then asked me if I had ever had a ‘well man’ test. “What’s that”? Answered the question. I then had a lot of tests which showed me to be in rude health apart from a slightly raised PSA. Prostate Specific Antigen. A biopsy was the norm and I duly went to the City Hospital for the procedure. What I didn’t expect a week later was a Prostate Cancer diagnosis. Frankly I had never considered myself to be mortal. Let alone thought that one day I could die. So this was a real shock. My wife Helena was with me and as ever was incredibly sensible and supportive. Of the options available we went for the one nearest to a cure. Surgical removal of my Prostate. I have a young family and so longevity is a priority. (It leaves you infertile). The Surgeon and team inspired masses of confidence though my coping mechanisms for my ADHD (that’s another story) fell apart a bit and I misunderstood some of the clinical information. I didn’t listen properly. My main concern from the outset was the Anesthetist and me not waking up from the Anesthetic. Something I told him just before I passed out on the day of the operation. I wondered why he had put that thing in my arm.
I had made my funeral arrangements just in case. Deciding on ‘The first time ever I saw your face’ by Roberta Flack as the Music. It being appropriate for all of my family. My wife Helena because the first time I saw her face was in a beautiful painting by her father. My Children of course as I was present at their births. (My Mother, who lives in the Meadows, probably wouldn’t come anyway as she finds funerals depressing).
Now my God is a busy God whom I try not to bother much. He answers my prayers simply and straightforwardly. He can be a bit off hand. But I had gone to St. Peters Church in the City and prayed. Asking him to look after my young family should the Anesthetist and the not waking up thing happen. After a long pause he had said, "don't worry I'm gonna let you live". In an amused and slightly off hand manner. As I left the Church he’d added, "be good". So I slept soundly.
I woke up from the operation just as Helena arrived at visitor's time and a few days later I was sent home. The excellent Surgical Team completely happy with their exploits. I had asked that nobody be told of my diagnosis or treatment. (I can’t stand people feeling sorry for me). Helena had obliged. Nobody suspected. I could have done without MRSA and the bad Urine infection that had me spending a few days hallucinating and shouting "fever, fever", like in some old Cowboy film but within a few weeks I was up. Within five weeks totally continent and soon back to almost normal. My excellent MP Chris Leslie helped me with Nottingham City Council’s relentless, persistent Council Tax demands for my sick period, even though I was signed off sick and on ESA. Soon though I was back to work. Editing together some Video footage and scriptwriting.
I went back to St. Peters Church to thank God. Again he replied saying, "no problem". I asked him if he wanted me to do anything for him. He said, "no, don't worry, have fun". As I rose from my knees I noticed some burning candles and a collection box. I said, "I could put a quid in here if you like" to which he replied, "don't have to". I put a quid in the box anyway and left. As I reached the door and pulled the handle he added again, "be good".
I have been clear now for nearly two years.
I haven’t got involved in any Prostate Cancer awareness activity. I would be happy to though when I’m next involved in any Marketing or Interviews. Should anyone be interested?
Oddly enough, an age ago, I spent several years working for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Now a high profile prostectomy patient and Prostate Cancer sufferer.
How I seemed to know I had Cancer I cannot explain and I’ve had prayers to God answered in words as far back as I can remember. (Though not always). So I’ve no clarification to offer. My GP says her decision to give me tests was based on “instinct” and my Surgeons simply found it interesting.
Listen to yourself. Would be my only suggestion.
Living with ADHD has required a lifetime of learning for me. Coping and masking. (I was first identified as a sufferer at West Bridgford Comprehensive School in 1973). Working in Children's Television gave me the early Childhood I never had. Learning to create and to perform has taught me about the human condition. How to speak and listen. Social skills. Cured me almost. I know I'm not the only Actor who thinks that as a benefit of the Craft. Though I still don't run with the pack or enjoy group company for group company's sake. Something that can still make me an easy target for bullying. I at least know why I'm like it. I also know that there's a balance to be struck between 'being normal' and being yourself. I don't hate being ADHD. Yes, it's made me have to work much harder. And every single day. But it has also helped me to be creative. Your never short of ideas with ADHD.
City of London
The City was founded on trust and integrity. The word was the bond and all that. When other insurers refused to pay up the City’s did. Their understatement and charity said something about our National character at a time and in a way that Hancock’s Half Hour did. Now Banks fail and bring the Country to ruin without apology or shame and worse, they even seek to individually and communally profit by it. In this regard the City no longer shares our Nations values and if we seek to limit their corrosive influences and excesses they threaten to leave and take their businesses elsewhere. Well I think we should encourage them to, if it’s all about the money then they really don’t share our Nations values. Let them go.
Then we can grow a responsible City that shares our Nations values and aspirations, one that can compete with any other financial centre in the world because it will have integrity and because people will trust in it. Something nobody does now.
If you have a hidden disability, as I have, or some other form of social awkwardness then you find yourself an easy target for bullying and most of my life this has been both possible and acceptable. Part of our societies social group culture. It’s fun for a group to wind the odd one up. It’s a bonding experience for them and confirmation that they are normal. There is usually only the one victim and if like me they are lacking in social skills and have no champion, then there’s unlikely to be any comeback for the Bully's. It starts with the Bullyee being seperated from the group, bit weird etc. People lacking social skills are used to being excluded, to being kept out and treated as outsiders and so mostly simply accept it and try as best they can to make their own way. As I have. Professionally it rids the insecure of at least one in competition for work and as in my business where people fear ridicule above all, it comforts them to think that while someone else is being ridiculed, that they are probably not.
The sad thing about this is that those who take part or instigate this bullying have mostly been bullied themselves. Been the victims of it. I am very proud of the fact that though I myself have been bullied and for most of my life, that I have not resorted or joined in with the bullying of others. In fact, I’ve challenged Bullies and helped victims when I could, championing a few back from the brink.
Nottingham's former Regional Screen
Much more could have been achieved with the public funds made available had they been delivered inclusively. I tried to enable that through due process as is my social responsibility. It was the most demoralising, depressing and wasteful experience of my life.
I Hear a Symphony, Diana Ross and the Supremes.
20th Century Boy, T. Rex. ø
I'll Be Your Mirror, Nico and the Velvet Underground.
Company, Rickie Lee Jones.
Come in from the cold, Joni Mitchell.
I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango) Grace Jones.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Roberta Flack.
Christmas Day 1963 found my 6-year-old self in the infirmary of my NCH Princess Alice Orphanage. I couldn’t see a thing. I had a nasty eye infection, which they called conjunctivitis, and so I was wearing thick blacked out goggles. I had to wear them at all times to stop me from scratching my itchy eyes and spreading the disease. The ward was noisy with children eagerly anticipating their Christmas present. We got one each. They were donated and then wrapped up and were distributed at random by Matron. She didn’t know what was inside. Marcus Clarke, Yes, resulted in a small package being dropped in my lap. I felt through the wrapping. It was long and thin with sticky-out bits at one end. I unwrapped it quickly and felt it properly. Exploring it with my hands I could tell it was hard plastic with one rounded pointy end and four fin like shapes sticking out at the other. It was a plastic Rocket! Christmas Rocket I called it. It was great. Christmas Rocket explored under the bedclothes flying through the crashing flannelette caverns only narrowly making it through. Christmas Rocket explored under the bed hanging from my dressing gown belt, down further into the space sea with splashing sound effects provided by my water jug, all the way to the sea bed and then up again. In and out of the iron tube bedstead chicane up and then down and crash into the big soft pillow of Saturn. Oh no! No damage but how to take off again. Half way along Christmas Rockets’ side I found a little lift door that clicked up and down. Out came the crew, (really my walking fingers.) How to get Christmas Rocket upright? One of the crew found an interstellar fishing net, (really just one of my socks), it had probably fallen off a passing Space Trawler. Or maybe had had to be jettisoned after getting snagged on Clipboard at bottom of bed. Phew. Lucky escape Space Trawler. They put it over the nosecone of Christmas Rocket and as some of the crew pulled it to bring Christmas Rocket upright others pushed the big soft pillow of Saturn under it until Christmas Rocket was standing totally upright and ready for take off again. Back in the side door for the crew, click and with another click, blast off. Boxing day my blacked out goggles came off. Guess what? The clicking lift door was in fact a switch; under the fins at the bottom of Christmas Rocket was glass, then silver and then a bulb. Christmas Rocket was a torch. It shone brightly! Wow and phew, amazing that in all of that time of me playing with it and not being able to see, that I hadn’t left it switched on and run the battery down. How lucky am I.
being Creative in Nottingham
Nottingham is designated by Government as a Science City with new City Deal styled funding allocated to support its growth delivered by, The Creative Quarter, (Nottingham Limited). It's basically an extension of Bio City as far as I can see, which along with its Venture Capital arm Mobius is essentially owned and run by Nottingham Trent University.
It's important to realise that the Creative in Creative Quarter as described by it refers to all sectors that are inherently creative and not just those normally described as 'creative industries'. That includes sectors such as life sciences and clean technology which, are considered creative because they innovate. As such, the Creative Quarter is creative in this sense rather than just being wedded to only the creative industries, as most would understand them. Life sciences and clean technology are also two of the three primary sectors identified for City growth. Science based innovation, exploration and 'creativity' is not my area of expertise nor what I am discussing here. Or even the merits of this type of spatial economic intervention, but the third sector identified for the City's growth, described as 'Digital,' which includes Digital Media and Digital Arts, TV, Web, Film etc. Along with those sectors normally considered to be 'Creative Industries' as well as Art and Artists in Nottingham more generally are.
Samples, I mean Simples.
Picture upper right is of Puppets Tickle and Patch from the Kids TV Series, Tickle Patch and Friends. Created and owned by Nottingham's Hands Up Puppets. All 13 Kids TV Series where Filmed in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands for Channel Five with no Public Subsidy or Regional Funding.
Nottingham is a wonderful City with great people. It has a lot of talent. Indigenous, Graduate and Independent. It also has a justified reputation for being the most difficult place in the Country for an Independent Artist, the main driver of a Creative City, to be based and operate in. Certainly in my near 30 years of practice here, which includes 10 years running a successful creative business in the Lace Market area, I have been helped by only one arts administrator, a member of the Notts County Council Arts team. I have though had my creative efforts otherwise demeaned, criticised, hindered and even sabotaged by local Arts Administrators.
Why? I don't know, but there has always been a focus here on creating a Nottingham City Brand. One that does not include sometimes critical, outspoken and maverick Independent Artists. Nor incredibly Robin Hood. On growing our Science based Industries and our Universities reputations. Then there's the ongoing problem of arts administrators having to achieve or fabricate the achievement of over ambitious stated funding outcomes. A focus that leads local Artists to the perception that it's, "all about them", the arts administrators and funding deliverers. Not about Art and Artists, or growing the Creative Industries here.
Which is why Nottingham can claim fewer iconic artists than any other equivalent sized English City.
This situation has been arrived at over a long time and by a real lack of quality Arts and Creative Sector leadership here. Leaving our arts administrators craving credibility, confusing art and artists with academics and academia, corralling talent to milk it for funding, only withering it. Delivering Patsy Art. Thirty years of poor East Midlands Arts leadership and planning and leadership has led us not to producing great and iconic international Art and Artists in Nottingham but Millstones, Albatrosses and White Elephants.
Clearly our arts funding over that time would have been better spent developing our existing and sustainable talents and assets, like the Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham Castle rather than trendy pretentious new builds.
Contemporary, Broadway and EMACE.
So much of our arts money now goes on the upkeep of previous, bad idea in the first place, capital spends that we should seriously think about selling them off. Lets face it, apart from the vanity aspect; the main driver for them was to get Arts/Lottery money into the Construction Industry as it currently is into the Education Sector. That done, profited and pocketed, they're now just arts funding drains. The Nottingham Contemporary for example would make a great major fashion house HQ or retail outlet. Its availability might even attract one to the City? Employ far more people and be a much better foot-driver. Paying proper rates too. There's lots of empty space in and around the Broadmarsh for Art Exhibitions. Where public engagement with art could actually be increased. Church Halls and Rooms for special interest group meetings and with that done, there would be more arts money for art and artists. And why does all of our digital media and film arts money have to go to Broadway? A trendy cafe with some home cinema screens, built mostly with euro/lotto money back in the funding awash days when world cinema wasn’t accessible over the Internet. Old Cathedral thinking in our modern day Digital Bazar. It could be sold off to a proper Cinema chain to provide some decent money for our digital artists and filmmakers. Instead though, showing how totally out of touch and wedded to still trying to do the same old failed thing but with much less money now they are, EM Arts Council recently awarded Broadway nearly £400k to create a face to face Business Centre in their basement. A real one. Paid for with our scant Arts money, why? Broadway is surrounded by plenty of available Business meeting spaces, not least at Antenna Media Centre just 100 yards down the road from it. With loads of vacant workshop, exhibition and networking spaces and coffee bars nearby.
And anyway, the best way to bring ideas and talent, quality business advice and investment together is over the internet says Govt. BIS and HMRC.
October 2011 Government axes Business Link as a face to face service as better business advice is available online.
March 2013 HMRC axes its own face to face service.
What does Arts Council England and Broadway know about business needs and sustainability that the above two don't? EM ACE is simply not fit for purpose, probably hasn't been for a long time.
Even now in a world where its commonplace to hear people say that the internet has changed everything, where so much of our retail has gone online. The term Cluster Effect here still means creative people and businesses sharing a building. Being shoe horned into a City building they don't want or need so that Arts funding and Investment can be turned into property rents. Everyone knows the Cluster Effect is really on the Internet, in the Cloud. On specialist websites and social media. Accessed via a laptop, pad or phone. Only things that really need City buildings are Arts Exhibitions, Theatre and other Entertainment. A kind of visitor cluster/crowd effect.
A better way.
The majority of our allocated Arts funding could be much more usefully and inclusively delivered through Arts Council England's GFA, to fund Artists to create Art here.
Currently less than 1.8% of our EM Regions Arts Council funding actually goes to artists. Yet like construction workers and property developers they spend their money, stimulating the local economy. Surely it's time to priorotise our artists and art production. Our professional artists. A great International Arts City needs great International Artists living and working in it, anywhere in it.
Nottingham needs an m.o.d. style 'front line first' or BBC 'putting quality first' policy to strip out all this oldy funding awash day waste. Change.
A big hurdle to us producing and keeping our iconic international artists is the fact that our process for identifying, supporting and nurturing them still revolves around the idea of putting them in classrooms. Though they're called things like, growth strategies, development programmes, sector partnerships, training seminars, incubators, the 'name or address of the place', projects, 'silly made up name', initiatives, etc. Always though building based or in some other way site specific. I understand why arts administrators and funding deliverers do this; I am a Teacher after all. It makes their job easier and gets them something to show by Friday. You can plan, assess and evaluate it over a short specified time frame. What does that sound like? A Lesson plan. The 'Schools' of course are the myriad of often admin heavy and purpose overlapping funding delivery organisations which in being, 'not for profit' doesn't mean that they're not wasteful, pointless or uncharitable and I'm sure they're profitable for the arts administrators salaried in them at least. Which is why you won't hear this issue raised much.
Great artists though tend to be divergent thinking mavericks who didn't and don't do well at school. And they tend to drop out of Universities if they do go to them. So you won't find many at the graduation day do.
Individual Grants for the Arts from Arts Council England are a great way to enable these people. But there's not enough of them and much fewer that are truly, Individual, i.e. Awarded without the applicant being part of one of the above. And there's further culling from arts administrators who are able to target, enshrine and quota GFA funding into delivery vehicle classrooms, where artists can be farmed to provide arts admin jobs, a new delivery body or funding for an existing one. They are of course best placed to know how to do this. ACE could help by weighting the GFA application points marking system in favour of Independent Artists rather than as they presently do, in favour of those with arts administrator endorsement. But who's going to suggest that? Why doesn't all this come out at the consultancies? Because the people who take part in the consultancies aren't mostly iconic or potentially iconic artists are they.
There's not many great artists who can achieve iconic status and great art in between visits to the Station Street dole office and traditional means of artist support, motivation and aspiration to ultimate goals, through teaching or arts administration jobs, being on the board of a Quango or National Portfolio Holder, are both inappropriate and undesirable for this group. We need something else.
One way Nottingham could compete with London and other bigger Cities is by being more maverick divergent thinking artist friendly. By creating and keeping more iconic international art and artists. This is something we could potentially do within existing funding, by just changing some of our ways, our priorities.
Innovating here would also be an excellent fit for our legendary, unique and iconic, Nottingham City identity and worldwide reputation. We would be, 'achieving great art for everyone by enabling our artists'.
How about paid remote/blended mentoring apprenticeships for some of our Nottingham artists to established international artists, worldwide? No building needed, in fact, it could be paid for by the sale of one.
We need new approaches, new methods for identifying, enabling, nurturing and keeping our great artists. For paying them to be artists and to create art here.
How's it done elsewhere?
In Ireland, artists pay no income tax on earnings below 250,000 euros.
In Scandinavian countries, artists deemed to have made significant contributions over the course of a lifetime receive special recognition – and income support – from the government.
In Australia, legislation allows artists to average income over a five-year span, protecting them from the highs and lows of chosen careers that promise personal fulfillment at the cost of long-term security. (The Toronto Star 2012)
What could be done in Nottingham at a local level?
What can we campaign for similarly at a National level? Tax breaks and other incentives for Artists? Something new.
Star Trek's Kobayashi Maru scenario presents a no win situation which Kirk overcomes by changing the rules of the game so that he can win. This is considered original thinking by the Academy and by Kirk of having the virtue of simply never having been tried before. I think of such no win scenarios as a driver for political change. I don't believe in the no win scenario either.
Walls of Glass in the shape and form of the medieval fortifications. Glass that can change colour, display images, with covered walkways that afford great views and enclose exhibition spaces with good access.
Walls that don't compromise existing structures.
People are interested to know how, in 2005, I was able to predict the banking crash, this recession and our ten year economic decline. Yes, all this talk of double dip or triple trifle is really just a long term re-adjustment. My own re-interpretation of what used to be called the 10 year rule, and while at the time my statements such as, “surely everybody must know the mother of all recessions is just around the corner”, were met with derision and, “what does a Puppeteer know about banking and finance anyway”, nowadays people are curious to know how I was able to accurately predicted all of this, even down to the new style new austerity. Well the time is probably right for me to explain. I was in fact armed with a GCSE C in Economics. This secret knowledge, that all booms were followed by busts and having been taught how to identify an economic bubble, my pensioner Meadows living mother receiving an unsolicited credit card with £30k of approved low interest spending for example and my previous learning of the history of financial Bubbles, The South Sea Bubble, Wall Street 20’s Share Bubble, Dutch Tulip Bubble etc. Made all of my accurate economic predictions possible. Education, and while I don’t know the circumstances of Gordon Brown’s economic knowledge? I would also say that the opposition benches were not at the time warning of ruin and pleading for a policy U turn. Maybe it should be compulsory for Government Ministers with economic or financial policy responsibility to at least have GCSE O level Economics or be working towards it.
In 2003 to fill a gap in my knowledge of History I decided to learn about the History of belief in Western Europe. So I read about the Celts, Greeks, Egyptians the early Christians and much more. I learned of Moloch, Mazda, Mithraism, about the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls and much, much more. Akhenaten and Assassins to Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism basically, to paraphrase the Greek.
I also learned about the Templars and Freemasonry and became quite fascinated by their work and rituals. I learned all of the rituals and words of English and Scots Freemasonry and then some of the higher or side orders. Mostly from Books. It took years. Then I didn’t find it fascinating anymore but at least I had informed myself on the subject.
What I really learned was that it is almost impossible to understand British History and Culture, our Society today, without understanding Freemasonry’s place in it and that this is probably the best reason for more debate and openness on the subject.
Over the years, my critics have been mostly poorly informed and quick to judge. They have had one in thing in common in all being less successful than their parents, often now only middle class by inheritance. That said, feedback is good and I'm always willing to listen to those who disagree and prepared to reconsider or change my views.
I like your stories, because they are very interesting and have a nice attention to detail. They contain all the signs of someone who is a writer.
The details, certainly in terms of observation (the character in the police station was interesting because of his observations and the potential for comedy in a very serious situation) make the stories so much more than a list of events that occurred.Elaine Aldred
Nottingham University Creative and Professional Writers.
All of this pages contents are the personal views and memories of Marcus Clarke and the copyright of Marcus Clarke 2011
Definition: Patsy Art. A term coined by Marcus Clarke to describe Art delivered by the Arts Administration sector of Nottingham.